NEA Funds Climate-Change Plays, Workshops on 'Food Justice'

$1 million goes to choreographed traffic jams, pop-up dance parties, 'progressive' ‘Pride and Prejudice’ $25,000 retreat for promising LGBTQ writers

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June 29, 2017

The National Endowment for the Arts is funding a progressive rendition of Pride and Prejudice, a choreographed traffic jam, and a play about climate change causing the end of the world.

Aside from spending $20,000 on a musical about a lesbian illegal immigrant in love with an ICE agent and giving $100,000 to the theater company that put on a Trump assassination play, the NEA's list of new grants includes numerous frivolous art projects.

Numerous grants are dedicated to the issue of climate change. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts received $60,000 for performances and workshops on climate change and a curriculum for public schools on "food justice."

A $10,000 grant went to the San Francisco Green Film Festival, a county in Florida received $50,000 for artists to design rain gardens.

The California Shakespeare Theater in Berkeley received $25,000 for an opera based on the science fiction novel Parable of the Sower, which imagines a dystopian future because of global warming.

"Chronicling the spiritual awakening of a future America grappling with the effects of climate change, 'Parable' is told in the form of a ritual song cycle informed by African-American spiritualism," according to the grant.

The adaptation offers "deep insights on gender, race, and the future of human civilization."

A dance performance by custodial workers is costing taxpayers $20,000.

"Featuring the skilled movement of a group of campus employees, such as dishwashers, cooks, custodial staff, physical plant employees, or grounds and maintenance crews, this multidisciplinary performance will highlight the work life of campus staff as performed by the employees themselves," according to the grant.

Forklift Danceworks received the funding for the dance, entitled, "Served," which the group says could be performed at the University of Houston or Wake Forest University.

Collide, an "eatery, drinking den, [and] creative arts space" in Austin, Texas, received $20,000 to choreograph a traffic jam.

"Artists working with local youth will choreograph automobiles, bicycles, golf carts, and pedicabs to perform skilled movements in a parking lot, making art inspired by Austin's traffic congestion," according to the grant.

Other projects focus on the LGBTQ community, including, "They, Them, Theirs: Showcasing Trans Lives." The Theater Offensive, which bills itself as the "largest and longest-running lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth theater program" in the country, received $15,000 for the performance.

"We present the diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation, challenges the status quo, and builds thriving communities," the Theater Offensive says.

The group received an award from former first lady Michelle Obama in 2016.

A retreat for "promising LGBTQ writers" in Los Angeles is costing $25,000, and part of a $40,000 grant to a center in Oakland is going to storytelling workshops for community organizers.

The San Francisco arts center "Fresh Meat Productions" received $15,000 for a "full-throttle" gay and transgender dance performance about AIDS.

"The Missing Generation features full-throttle dance, luscious partnering, intimate storytelling and theater—performed by Dorsey's stellar, multi-generational ensemble of dancers," according to the center. The performance is advertised with a picture of four topless men embracing.

Fresh Meat Productions is dedicated to promoting "social justice, solidarity and the evolution of transgender arts and culture."

The Queer Cultural Center in San Francisco received $15,000 for "new works by commissioned LGBT artists of color from the Bay Area."

The Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project received $20,000 for a filmmaking workshop. The organization says it creates "high-impact films that authentically reflect the lives of queer women of color (cisgender & transgender), gender nonconforming and transgender people of color (of any orientation), and address the vital, intersecting social justice issues that concern our multiple communities."

The Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project also says it leads "social justice movements that incorporate the power of art as cultural resistance."

An exhibition in Birmingham, Ala., received $25,000 for work by female artists that "explores social justice issues." The artist Rosa Naday Garmendia has done pieces on Tamir Rice and a text-based work entitled "God and Bombs."

Garmendia is an immigrant from Cuba, which she says "has faced hostilities from the United States since 1959."

A small town in Minnesota received $75,000 to put on dance parties and walking events.

The "Year of Play" project in Fergus Falls, which has a population of just over 13,000, will include "artist-led biking or walking events, traffic calming artwork, and pop up dance parties."

"The American people are recognized for their innovative spirit and these grants represent the vision, energy, and talent of America's artists and arts organizations," said NEA chairman Jane Chu. "I am proud of the role the National Endowment for the Arts plays in helping advance the creative capacity of the United States."

Other projects include $90,000 for a three-week songwriting class for elderly people who live in federal public housing, and $10,000 for a class taught by master clowns in San Francisco.

National Public Radio received $130,000 to create a book concierge app and funding for music programming.

Several arts grants are going toward police and community training. A $50,000 grant is going towards training "local artists, community members, and police officers in crime prevention" in Indianapolis.

James Madison University received $20,000 to study using songwriting to "explore issues of incarceration, equity, justice, and community."

Two projects totaling $35,000 received funding to do exhibits on the terrorist attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. One will focus on "themes of understanding and unity," while another will be a dance in Seattle about the "mass shooting." Neither project mentions terrorism.

An artist group in New York City that recently raised a "resist" flag over its headquarters received $40,000 for an installation about "capitalism, immigration, and the promise of the 'American Dream'" near the Statue of Liberty.

A choral festival at Philadelphia churches featuring songs based on conversations with homeless men and environmentalism received $30,000, and exhibitions in Pittsburgh of refugees, gentrification, and personal space received $20,000.

The NEA is spending $30,000 to write "love poems to San Antonio," and $10,000 for an annual gathering of basket weavers.

An "Art Truck" that will take artists to parking lots and farmers' markets in Arlington, Va., is costing $25,000.

A play that questions whether Cain, who committed the first murder in the Bible, was a criminal is costing $10,000.

"We will ask the question; was Cain a criminal? It will be up to you to decide if his actions were justified," the Synetic Theater said.

Finally, a "fresh take" on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to "provide greater voice and agency for women and diverse casting," is costing $35,000.

"Playwright Kate Hamill imbues new life to this classic love story with a decidedly progressive take on the trials and travails of Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and, of course the delightful Bennet clan," according to a synopsis for the play.

The total price tag for the above listed projects is $1,070,000.

Published under: Climate Change , NEA