A dancer performs a nude routine for 'The Symmetry Project' as part of a San Francisco dance group that has received emergency funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Talk about a stimulus package.
The National Endowment for the Arts may be spending some of the money it received from the Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund nude simulated-sex dances, Saturday night "pervert" revues and the airing of pornographic horror films at art houses in San Francisco.
The NEA was given $80 million of the government's $787 billion economic stimulus bill to spread around to needy artists nationwide, and most of the money is being spent to help preserve jobs in museums, orchestras, theaters and dance troupes that have been hit hard by the recession.
But some of the NEA's grants are spicing up more than the economy. A few of their more risque choices have some taxpayer advocates hot under the collar, including a $50,000 infusion for the Frameline film house, which recently screened Thundercrack, "the world's only underground kinky art porno horror film, complete with four men, three women and a gorilla."
"When you spend so much money in a short amount of time ... you're going to have nonsense like this, and that's why the stimulus should never have been done in the first place," said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste.
Williams said such support for the arts is a luxury at a time when the president and Congress have been telling the public to make sacrifices to manage the recession.
"When taxpayers see this, they realize that's just a bunch of hot air," he told FOXNews.com.
Some members of Congress raised alarms as the stimulus bill was being drafted and approved, but President Obama, while admitting there were problems with the $787 billion legislation, stressed the need for immediate action to resuscitate the economy.
"We can't afford to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary," Obama said at the time.
But he presumably didn't intend to have stimulus money help fund the weekly production of "Perverts Put Out" at San Francisco's CounterPULSE, whose "long-running pansexual performance series" invites guests to "join your fellow pervs for some explicit, twisted fun."
CounterPULSE received a $25,000 grant in the "Dance" category; a staffer there said they were pleased to receive the grant, "which over the next year will be used to preserve jobs at our small non-profit."
Similarly, the director of Frameline, the gay and lesbian film house, told FOXNews.com in an e-mail that their $50,000 grant was not to support any program in particular.
"The grant is not intended for a specific program; it's to be used for the preservation of jobs at our media arts nonprofit organization over the next year during the economic downturn," wrote K.C. Price, who listed four other NEA grants his organization has received.
An NEA spokeswoman defended the agency's choices and said its grants would help "preserve jobs in danger of going away or that had gone away because of the economic downturn."
"Our review process is very comprehensive — we take great care with applicants and with grantees," said NEA spokeswoman Victoria Hutter. "It's a thorough, rigorous process that they all go through, and we're proud of the projects that we've been able to support."
Though the process was sped up, the NEA's 109 panelist reviewers handled the compressed schedule by giving their $50 million in direct grants only to individuals and groups that have received funding in the past and have already passed muster. An additional $30 million was given to state agencies to parcel out to local artists during this year.
The show depicts "the sharing of a central axis, [as] spine, mouth, genitals, face, and anus reveal their interconnectedness and centrality in embodied experience," according to a description offered on Curtis' Web site.
In the flesh — and there's a lot of it — it amounts to two people writhing naked on the floor, a government-funded tango in the altogether.
Curtis said that diminished support from regular funders like San Francisco Grants for the Arts "would mean lots less work and less ability to organize ... to get the work out in front of people." He said the NEA funding will help keep his art afloat.
"I think art is an incredibly important part of our culture and our life and ... that it's very much appropriate that our government should be supporting it," he told FOXNews.com.
San Francisco's economy is driven by the arts, which provided nearly 30,000 jobs in the city last year, according to Luis R. Cancel, director of cultural affairs for the San Francisco Arts Council.
"The city's non-profit arts and cultural sector generates $1.03 billion in local economic activity annually and, therefore, it will play a critical role in our recovery," Cancel said in a statement.
"With these stimulus funds San Francisco arts organizations will be able to weather the storm and continue to provide jobs and to generate revenue while enriching people's lives through innovative, high quality programming."
Williams, the taxpayer advocate, allowed that the $100,000 granted to the three groups "isn't going to make or break the country financially," but he said arts institutions should try to raise money by raising ticket prices — not by taxing individuals.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, he said. "These sorts of programs really do need to be funded by the patrons that go to the performances — not by the federal government."