MacArthur Foundation Announces 2016 ‘Genius’ Fellows

9-22-16 MacArthur Fellows
The MacArthur Foundation announced on Thursday its 2016 class of fellows. The awards are commonly referred to as "genius grants." This year's recipients include the poet Claudia Rankine and the writer Maggie Nelson. John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Genius can take many forms. Once a year, the MacArthur Foundation recognizes the work and creativity of roughly two dozen people in diverse fields by naming them MacArthur Fellows, awards commonly referred to as "genius grants." The foundation announced its 2016 fellows on Thursday.

This year's class includes poet Claudia Rankine, writer Maggie Nelson and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (who at 31 is the youngest recipient in this class), as well as others in fields not always associated with creativity, like physical biologist and inventor Manu Prakash, human rights lawyer Ahilan Arulanantham and synthetic chemist Jin-Quan Yu. 

“While our communities, our nation, and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these 23 extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope," MacArthur President Julia Stasch is quoted as saying. "They are breaking new ground in areas of public concern, in the arts and in the sciences, often in unexpected ways. Their creativity, dedication and impact inspire us all.”

The awards are based on three criteria: "exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work." 

Each fellow, or "genius," receives $625,000 paid in equal quarterly installments over five years, with no strings attached. In other words, the fellows are not required to produce a certain finished project or submit reports about their progress. The underlying goal is "to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society."

Here are the "Class of 2016" fellows (each name links to more information): 

Ahilan Arulanantham, Human Rights Lawyer

American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
Los Angeles
43 at time of award

Arulanantham_2016_hi-res-download_2 Ahilan Arulanantham, Human Rights Lawyer John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Daryl Baldwin, Linguist and Cultural Preservationist

Miami University of Ohio
Oxford, Ohio
53 at time of award

Anne Basting, Theater Artist and Educator

University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee
Milwaukee
51 at time of award

Vincent Fecteau, Sculptor

San Francisco
47 at time of award

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Playwright

New York
31 at time of award

Kellie Jones, Art Historian and Curator

Columbia University
New York
57 at time of award 

Subhash Khot, Theoretical Computer Scientist

New York University
New York
38 at time of award

Josh Kun, Cultural Historian

University of Southern California
Los Angeles
45 at time of award

Maggie Nelson, Writer

California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, California
43 at time of award

Dianne Newman, Microbiologist

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California
44 at time of award

Victoria Orphan, Geobiologist

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California
44 at time of award

Manu Prakash, Physical Biologist and Inventor

Stanford University
Stanford, California
36 at time of award

José A. Quiñonez, Financial Services Innovator

Mission Asset Fund
San Francisco
45 at time of award

Claudia Rankine, Poet

Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
53 at time of award

Lauren Redniss, Artist and Writer

Parsons School of Design
New York
42 at time of award

Mary Reid Kelley, Video Artist

Olivebridge, New York
37 at time of award

Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Bioengineer

Rice University
Houston
52 at time of award

Joyce J. Scott, Jewelry Maker and Sculptor

Baltimore
67 at time of award

Sarah Stillman, Long-Form Journalist

The New Yorker
New York
32 at time of award

Bill Thies, Computer Scientist

Microsoft Research India
Bangalore, India
38 at time of award

Julia Wolfe, Composer

New York University
New York
57 at time of award

Gene Luen Yang, Graphic Novelist

San Jose, California
43 at time of award

Jin-Quan Yu, Synthetic Chemist

Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla, California
50 at time of award

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