Here are this year’s MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ winners

Here are this year’s MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ winners

This year’s MacArthur Fellowships (commonly referred to as “Genius Grants”) were announced Tuesday, marking a fresh slate of artists and scholars who “show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” The fellows will receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, which is paid out in installments over the course of five years.

Ralph Lemon, Larissa FastHorse, N. K. Jemisin, Cristina Rivera Garza, Fred Moten, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Nanfu Wang and Jacqueline Woodson are among the 21 fellows selected. Disciplines include cognitive science, engineering, playwriting, singing and more.

Cristina Rivera Garza. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Cristina Rivera Garza. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“To me, theater is life; theater is everywhere and everything and all human beings participate in theater,” FastHorse said in a short video accompanying the announcement. Known for her satirical work “The Thanksgiving Play,” the playwright is also the co-founder of Indigenous Direction, which advises on theater and film projects dealing with Native issues.

“From the beginning of my career it’s been important to me to find ways to include Indigenous peoples and populations into my work,” she said. “Creating works that not only tell Indigenous stories and use Indigenous ways of thinking, but they also provide greater access to them to have agency over the way that they are portrayed.”

N. K. Jemisin. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
N. K. Jemisin. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Jemisin, who won the Hugo Award for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy, said that she is “writing the stories I wish someone had written for me when I was younger.”

Since the program launched in 1981, the MacArthur Foundation has awarded over a thousand fellowships. Nominated contenders are evaluated by a selection committee representing leaders from the arts, sciences and humanities, with final recommendations presented to the organization’s president and board of directors.

Ralph Lemon. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Ralph Lemon. Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration,” Cecilia Conrad, MacArthur Fellows managing director, said in a statement. “They are asking critical questions, developing innovative technologies and public policies, enriching our understanding of the human condition, and producing works of art that provoke and inspire us.”

Here are this year’s MacArthur Fellows, with brief texts about their area of focus drawn from the announcement.

Isaiah Andrews
“Developing robust methods of statistical inference to address key challenges in economics and social science.”

Tressie McMillan Cottom
Sociologist, writer and public scholar
“Shaping discourse on highly topical issues at the confluence of race, gender, education and digital technology for broad audiences.”

Paul Dauenhauer
Chemical engineer
“Developing new technologies for converting renewable, organic materials into chemicals used in products such as plastics, rubber and detergents.”

Nels Elde
Evolutionary Geneticist
“Investigating the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary processes driving host-pathogen interactions.”

Damien Fair
Cognitive neuroscientist
“Devising maps of network connectivity in individual brains that advance our understanding of how distinct regions communicate and develop in both typical and atypical contexts.”

Larissa FastHorse
“Creating space for Indigenous artists, stories and experiences in mainstream theater and countering misrepresentation of Native American perspectives in broader society.”

Catherine Coleman Flowers
Environmental health advocate
“Bringing attention to failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas and its role in perpetuating health and socioeconomic disparities.”

Mary L. Gray
Anthropologist and media scholar
“Investigating the ways in which labor, identity and human rights are transformed by the digital economy.”

N. K. Jemisin
Speculative fiction writer
“Pushing against the conventions of epic fantasy and science fiction genres while exploring deeply human questions about structural racism, environmental crises and familial relationships.”

Ralph Lemon
“Generating interdisciplinary modes of artistic expression for stories, emotions, memories, and identities that traditional media do not accommodate.”

Polina V. Lishko
Cellular and developmental biologist
“Examining the cellular processes that guide mammalian fertilization and opening new avenues for contraception and treatment of infertility.”

Thomas Wilson Mitchell
Property law scholar
“Reforming laws and developing policy solutions addressing mechanisms by which Black and other disadvantaged American families have been deprived of their land, homes and real estate wealth.”

Natalia Molina
American historian
“Revealing how narratives of racial difference that were constructed and applied to immigrant groups a century ago continue to shape national policy today.”

Fred Moten
Cultural theorist and poet
“Creating new conceptual spaces to accommodate emerging forms of Black aesthetics, cultural production, and social life.”

Cristina Rivera Garza
Fiction writer
“Exploring culturally constructed notions of language, memory and gender from a transnational perspective.”

Cécile McLorin Salvant
Singer and composer
“Using manifold powers of interpretation to infuse jazz standards and original compositions with a vibrant, global, Black, feminist sensibility.”

Monika Schleier-Smith
Experimental physicist
“Advancing our understanding of how many-particle quantum systems behave and connecting phenomena observed in the laboratory to a range of other areas of physics.”

Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost
Biological chemist
“Investigating synthesis of novel molecules with therapeutic properties and expediting discovery of new antibiotics.”

Forrest Stuart
“Challenging long-held assumptions about the forces that shape urban poverty and violence and bringing to light the lived reality of those who experience it.”

Nanfu Wang
Documentary filmmaker
“Creating intimate character studies that examine the impact of authoritarian governance, corruption and lack of accountability on the lives of individuals.”

Jacqueline Woodson
“Redefining children’s and young adult literature to encompass more complex issues and reflect the lives of Black children, teenagers and families.”