Baring the NEA's Waste of Stimulus Money

The National Endowment for the Arts never learns. From Mapplethorpe to “Piss Christ,” American taxpayers have made it clear that they're not interested in funding obscenity dressed up as “art.”

Now, in the midst of a recession, the NEA has spent some of the millions of dollars it received from the stimulus package on exactly the kind of projects that invite calls to do away with the endowment.

On July 30, Fox reported NEA spent a total of $100,000 on several San Francisco projects of dubious artistic merit and far from family-friendly. CounterPULSE, which features a show called “Perverts Put Out,” received $25,000. Another $50,000 went to Frameline theater. Fox's Joseph Abrams reported the film house, “recently screened Thundercrack, 'the world's only underground kinky art porno horror film, complete with four men, three women and a gorilla.'”

The dance troupe Jess Curtis/Gravity also received $25,000. The group performs “Symmetry Project.” In order to watch the “dance” onYoutube, viewers must be 18 years old because of the nudity.

Fortunately, at least some members of congress have noticed.  Fifty of them sent a letter to Patrice Walker Powell, the acting chairman for NEA. “We are writing to express our outrage that the NEA is using taxpayer money to support objectionable and obscene movies, plays and exhibitions,” they wrote. “There is no justification for using tax dollars on these abhorrent projects. As such, this money should be immediately returned. Please provide us with the criteria you used in distributing these grants and what steps you are taking, if any, to ensure that tax dollars are not being used on such repulsive art projects.”

NEA does have basic guidelines listed online. It states, “One-time grants to eligible nonprofit organizations including arts organizations, local arts agencies, statewide assemblies of local arts agencies, arts service organizations, units of state or local government, and a wide range of other organizations for projects that focus on the preservation of jobs in the arts. All applicants must be previous NEA award recipients from the past four years.”

Oddly, for an organization with a history of questionable judgment, the NEA's Web site doesn't seem to include guidelines for what it considers appropriate “art” to receive funding.