Self-love, strippers and dancing in the dark — State Arts Grants

To protect everyone from the COVID virus, Minnesota state government shut down all the bars, restaurants and theaters, putting already starving artists out of work. But have no fear: the Creative Support for Individuals grant fund was created to hand out $6,000 grants to help “Minnesota artists and culture bearers sustain their practice and stay relevant and connected to audiences.” You know, the audiences that disappeared when the very same state government shut everything down.

This COVID-19-inspired program run by the Minnesota Arts Board with funding from the Legacy Amendment to the constitution is hereby nominated for a Golden Turkey award.  

When we say “handed out grants,” we mean it. The Arts Board distributed $3.1 million to 525 grantees, and judging by the winners, it’s hard to imagine they turned anyone down.

Some of the grants went to woke artists happy to take taxpayer money to push their activist agenda. Like Monica Sheets of Minneapolis, who produced issue #3 of The GRIND, a “full-color, printed zine in which current and former erotic dancers present writing and art about the current conditions of and utopian visions for stripping in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest region.” Or Atlas O. Phoenix, also of Minneapolis, who gathered footage for his documentary Beautiful Boi, a “Black/multiracial, disabled, transmasculine journey to self-love.” Wow.

Some grants went to people doing things that can only be described as weird. Like Morgan Thorson of Minneapolis, who researched with local dance artists “the gifts of really dark night through outdoor night dancing.” Huh? Or Gabriel B. Rodreick of Minneapolis, who researched and experimented with a method of dance that involves “getting dancers out of the wheelchair and onto the floor.” That just sounds dangerous.

Other grants were given to artists not for new projects, but to simply keep doing what they were doing. Like Dave Sandersfeld of North Mankato, who received a grant to purchase recording equipment to allow him to “explore his musical ideas at home and in a cost-effective way.” And Aparna Ramaswamy of Minneapolis, who received a grant to purchase a Pilates reformer “with the goal to mitigate intense back pain and increase the longevity of her performance career.” My back hurts, can I have some taxpayer money?

Zachary S. Ploeger of Pipestone got $6,000 to “create content to engage with Minnesota audiences in a virtual format.” What a minute — that’s exactly what we do at Golden Turkey! We should have applied for a grant.

Again, these grants are made possible by the Legacy Amendment to the State Constitution, which dedicates a portion of sales taxes to pay for Arts and Cultural Heritage programming. The amendment expires in 2034 and programs like these are a strong reason to let it expire.

The projects we listed are just a few examples of the money given to “artists” during COVID to sustain them through the shutdowns. The full list can be found here, but fair warning, it will make you mad. It made us mad enough to nominate the State Arts Board for a Golden Turkey award for their Creative Support for Individuals Grant Pro.

Should the $6,000 grants for self-love, strippers and dancing in the dark win the Golden Turkey Award? Make sure you cast your vote!