Four visual artists received the award: Paul Chan, Sky Hopinka, Amanda Williams, and Tavares Strachan. (photos courtesy MacArthur Foundation)

Four visual artists were named MacArthur “Genius” Fellows in a long-awaited announcement from the MacArthur Foundation today, October 12. All 25 fellows are set to receive $800,000 grants, paid out quarterly over the next five years, to be used as they see fit. The financial award has had its first increase in seven years  — a 28% jump from the previous trend of $625,000 for recipients.

The artist fellows include Paul Chan, a Hong Kong-born American artist with an evolving practice known for his role as an artist-curator; Sky Hopinka, a Native American film artist and assistant professor of Film and Electronic Arts at Bard College; Tavares Strachan, a Bahamian multimedia artist exploring concepts at the intersection of art, science and politics; and Amanda Williams, an African-American artist and architect best known for her public installations that explore the dynamics of race across space and environments. 

Based in Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards annual fellowships to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Since 1981, over a thousand fellows have been awarded with the so-called “genius” grants.

Per tradition, MacArthur Fellows are neither aware of their nomination nor their selection until the foundation initiates communication at the drop of a hat. Amanda Williams recalled the life-changing feeling of receiving the phone call when she was with her nine-year-old daughter.

 “So many things don’t give us hope, the feeling that we can’t surmount,” Williams said in an interview. “This feels like it helps swing the pendulum in the other direction.”

The MacArthur Fellowship nomination and award process is notoriously obscured, though the foundation underscores three major components for what makes an ideal fellowship candidate: Fellows are expected to show “exceptional creativity” and promise for important future achievements, and the fellowship should facilitate new creative work

All fellows who met these criteria were anonymously nominated and then forwarded to a selection committee consisting of a dozen leaders in professions spanning across the arts and humanities, sciences, and nonprofit to for-profit organization spheres. Candidates and their work are carefully evaluated by the committee to determine their alignment with the foundation’s goals and values.

The MacArthur Foundation said it celebrates this year’s cohort for its unique and novel approaches to mitigating the world’s overarching complexities from microscopic to atmospheric perspectives.

 “The 2022 MacArthur Fellows are architects of new modes of activism, artistic practice, and citizen science,” said Marlies Carruth, director of the MacArthur Fellowship. “They are excavators uncovering what has been overlooked, undervalued, or poorly understood. They are archivists reminding us of what should survive.”

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Rhea Nayyar

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...

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