Everyone knows the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) sponsors artistic endeavors promoting — or at least prominently featuring — gay, lesbian and transgender lifestyles.
The most recent round of artistic grants includes a number of artistic productions, from art shows to theater to classical music, that focus on LGBTQ issues in the arts. NEA had a $147,949,000 budget in 2016, much of which went to thousands of individual projects in the form of government grants.
Here are nine grants from the first , announced Dec. 13, which taxpayers are funding:
The American Repertory Theatre got $50,000 to help bring “Trans Scripts,” a play about real people in the U.S., U.K. and Australia who transitioned from male to female, to the U.S. next year. British newspaper The Guardian hailed the play as “a show that matters, not just to those already aware of the trans communities, but for those who have no knowledge of them.”
UCLA got $25,0000 for “NOWhere: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A,” called “Axis Mundo” on the university libraries website. Both the NEA and UCLA describe the project as an exhibition of “experimental artworks in a variety of media between the 1960s and early 1990s, a period bookended by the Chicano Moratorium, gay liberation, and feminist movements on one end, and the ravages of the AIDS crisis on the other.”
Washington National Opera, the largest opera company in Washington, D.C., received $60,000 to support several shows, including “Champion,” a jazz-infused opera about the life of boxer Emile Griffith, exploring the “meaning of sexual identity and the challenges that homosexual individuals face in modern-day America.” The show will run the beginning of 2017.
NEA provided $10,000 for a Chicago Sinfonietta concert program “that explore issues of gender, sexuality, and identity with related community engagement activities.”
Frameline, or the San Francisco International LGBT film festival, received $10,000 to support a festival of “feature-length and short films representing the LGBTQ community,” complete with discussions with filmmakers. Last year, the festival screened films like “Margarita With A Straw,” the story of a bisexual Indian woman with cerebral palsy.
NEA provided $10,000 to One Voice Mixed Chorus so the group can with Well Strung, a string quartet made up of “hunky gay men.” One Voice Mixed Chorus works with “low-income, ethnically diverse LGBTQ youth,” and will partner with the gay quartet “to perform a concert and premiere a new work highlighting the experience of queer youth for students and families in the St. Paul Public School District.”
NEA gave another $10,000 to Fresh Meat Productions to tour a new show of dance and theater called “The Missing Generation” that explores “the contemporary impact of the loss of much of an entire generation of gay and transgender people to AIDS in the 1980s.”
One grant touches a theme many American servicemen returning from wars in Afghanistan may be able to relate to: Returning home from war and not recognizing the country you fought for. NEA is sponsoring a play called “HIR” about a Marine who returns from a three-year tour of duty to find his sister identifies as transgender. A $40,000 grant from NEA allows this play, which the Hollywood Reporter calls a “dark and dysfunctional family comedy,” to life in cities across the nation.
It would be unfair to characterize every NEA grant as sponsoring artworks with LGBT subject matter. The St.Louis Symphony Orchestra, for example, got $40,000 to support “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” a new opera telling of Christ’s last days through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. The opera is full of “well-meaning but anodyne and scattered attempts to juxtapose the biblical story with reports from contemporary social justice movements, like César Chávez’s labor activism,” The New York Times wrote in a review of the show.
Another grant supports the show “Silent Night,” an operatic retelling of story of World War I soldiers, both French and German, who organized cease-fire for a few hours on Christmas in 1914 to celebrate the birth of Christ. The show, which will run at Opera San Jose for most of February, 2017, received $25,000 from the NEA.
“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting these projects, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,”Jane Chu, chairwoman of the NEA, said in a statement announcing the grants.
“Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”
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