COVID-19 relief funds from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) went to the Queer Cultural Center in San Francisco that hosted a “drag story hour” and face painting for children at the public library, among other activities.
The ARP Act, which Democrats passed in March 2021 without any Republican support, was billed by the Democratic Party as an economic necessity for getting the country through the COVID-19 pandemic. Economists on both sides of the political aisle have since blamed the $1.9 trillion ARP for contributing to the current inflation crisis.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which received $135 million in ARP funds, awarded grants to hundreds of organizations “to help with recovery and reopening,” the NEA said in January.
According to NEA records, a $150,000 ARP grant was awarded to “The Center for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Art & Culture (aka Queer Cultural Center)” in January “to support personnel expenses in response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The support will help the organization maintain operations during recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the NEA grant states. “This assistance will benefit the organization’s constituency, such as arts workers, artists, and audiences.”
In June, the QCC hosted a “drag story hour” for children and offered face painting at the San Francisco Public Library.
“Please join us for a very special storytime that will inspire a love of reading, while teaching deeper lessons on diversity, self-respect and an appreciation of others,” the event description stated. “This fabulous event for children and families will feature the ultra glamorous PerSia reading children’s favorite stories! Face painting available for children. Vegan snacks provided.”
According to its website, the QCC “promotes social justice and the artistic and financial development of queer art and culture.”
“QCC is supported in part by an American Rescue Plan Act grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support general operating expenses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the website states.
The NEA also awarded $150,000 in ARP funds to Fresh Meat Productions, a transgender dance studio in San Francisco that offers free videos on its website.
One of the videos, conducted by J Mase III, a self-described “Black/Trans/queer poet” and the author of the book, “White Folks Be Trippin,’” includes a breathing exercise meant for “Black, Brown and Indigenous folks” who “still have to deal with White people’s bulls—.”
“So what I wanted to create for this video is some space for us to deal with our own healing, create our own protective barriers against White people’s bulls—, and just have a place for joy,” Mase says in the video posted in 2020. “So take a deep breath in of your healing, take a deep breath out of White supremacist bulls—. Take a deep breath in of your ancestral wisdom, take a deep breath out of founding father f—boys.”
Another video in the series includes a seated dance class by drag performer Churro Nomi advertised “for folks of all ages.”
“Have a glittery accessory, a gorgeous lipstick color, or a loud piece of fabric? Throw it on and let’s move our bodies like the drag royalty we are in this 12-minute class!” the video description states.
The NEA issued a statement to Fox News Digital saying, “The arts community has endured some of the highest rates of unemployment during the pandemic.”
“The ARP grants were made to eligible organizations to support their own operations,” the NEA said. “Unlike other Arts Endowment funding programs that offer project-based support, American Rescue Plan funds are intended to support day-to-day business expenses/operating costs, and not specific programmatic activities. These funds are intended to help support jobs in the arts sector, keep the doors open to arts organizations nationwide, and assist the field in its response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The ARP funding awarded to Fresh Meat Productions and Queer Cultural Center is to support staff salaries.”
The NEA said each ARP grant application was reviewed by an advisory panel on the criteria of “artistic excellence and artistic merit,” adding that, “Panel recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts, which then makes recommendations to the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Chair reviews the Council’s recommendations and makes the final decision on all grant awards.”
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