MacArthur Fellowship 2016 Awards for Creative People

MacArthur Fellowship 2016 Awards for Creative People



The MacArthur Fellows Program helps talented individuals in their creative pursuits who have a marked capacity for self-direction. According to the MacArthur Foundation, the program awards those who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative fields.

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards fellowships to individuals directly, rather than through an institution. The program encourages people with outstanding talent to pursue their own intellectual, creative, and professional inclinations.

Recipients can be artists, writers, scientists, humanists, entrepreneurs, social scientists, teachers, or those who are in fields with or without institutional affiliations. Award recipients can use their fellowship to engage in bold new work, advance their careers, change fields, or alter the direction of their current course.

The fellowship is not a lifelong achievement award, but rather, it is an investment in a person’s potential, insight, and originality. The MacArthur Fellowship is a no strings attached award in support of individuals, not their projects.

The selection process for the MacArthur Fellows requires three criteria:

  1.  Extraordinary creativity
  2.  Prior significant accomplishments with a promise for future advances based on their previous track record.
  3.  Potential for the MacArthur Fellowship to facilitate further creative work.

The MacArthur fellowship recipient receives a stipend of $625,000. The program pays the money out equally, in quarterly installments, over a span of five years. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

The MacArthur Fellowship Foundation has been giving out grants since 1979. Since that time, they have donated over $5 billion in the United States and 50 other countries.

For many artists, scientists and creative people receiving a call from an unidentified Chicago number, in late summer is a dream come true. The 2016 MacArthur awards went to 23 people this year, as reported by The Daily Beast.

MacArthur Fellowship for Sciences

  • Rebecca Richards-Kortum, 52, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a bioengineer. Kortum is dedicated to global health disparities in low-resource settings. She is a Professor at Rice University and has developed new points of medical care technologies. Moreover, Kortum has spent time in Brazil, Malawi, El Salvador, and Rwanda in attempts to counter challenges of invasive biopsies and several follow-up appointments. She is the co-founder of Beyond Traditions Borders (BTB). New technology developed by students at BTB include an LED-based phototherapy light. The light helps treat jaundice in newborns. It costs less than $100 to make.
  • Dianne Newman, 44, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a microbiologist. Her studies are the evolution of ancientMacArthur microbes’ metabolic process and their impact on the chemistry and biology of their environments. Her training is in environmental engineering, molecular genetics, geobiology and Earth science.
  • Subhash Khot, 38, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a theoretical computer scientist. Khot’s work centers around the limitations of computing. Working exclusively on the Unique Games Conjecture (UGC), Khot has led the research in theorem in geometry. He has also spearheaded the stability of different election systems.
  • Victoria Orphan, 44, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a geobiologist. Orphan and her colleagues, through her studies of microbial communities, showed how some deep-sea microbes can consume methane. In doing so, they have shown that these bacteria help to save the Earth’s atmosphere from the build-up of greenhouse gasses.
  • Manu Prakash, 36, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a physical biologist and inventor. Has studied physical computation and developed new theories on whether or not computers can manipulate physical matter and information. He has developed a number of devices that facilitate a cheap science, such as a lightweight optical microscope that is inexpensive and readily available.
  • Bill Thies, 38, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a computer scientist. He is recognized for being a leader in the field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development.
  • Jin-Quan Yu, 50, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a synthetic chemist. He is known for pioneering new ways for manipulating carbon-hydrogen bonds. His work is laying the foundation for many new pharmaceuticals and agrichemicals.

MacArthur Fellowship for Writers

  • Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, 31, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a playwright and youngest winner of the 2016 awards. He studied at Princeton University and Julliard. He is from New York. He has written five plays since 2010. Moreover, his plays deal with issues surrounding race, identity, and class. In 2014, he was awarded the Obie Award for Best New American Play for “Appropriate” and “An Octoroon.” In 2016, he received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist for his play “Gloria.”
  • Mary Reid Kelley, 37, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a video artist. Kelley addresses gender roles in historical narratives using different creative techniques. Most of her scripts are written in a poetic verse that has literary allusions, puns, double entendres and an array of language play. She designs all of her sets, costumes, props and performs the leading roles in all of her pieces, alongside her partner, Patrick Kelley.
  • MacArthurMaggie Nelson, 43, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a writer. Nelson is a nonfiction writer who blends her personal and intellectual exploration which addresses feminist and queer theory. She also confronts cultural and art criticism, philosophy and psychology. Her 2007 novel “The Red Parts,” dives into the impact of sexual violence, as well as the media. Her book was greatly influenced by her aunt’s suspected murder.
  • Claudia Rankine, 53, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a poet. Rankine is a professor at Yale University and author of five poetry collections.
  • Sarah Stillman, 32, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a long-form journalist. She is known for investigating stories that are invisible to mainstream reporting. She has covered the kidnapping of undocumented minors at the Mexican border, as well as taken a critical look at the criminal justice system.
  • Gene Luen Yang, 43, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a graphic novelist. He writes graphic novels for young adults with a contemporary Chinese- American lens. His 2006 project called the “American-Born Chinese” along with “Boxers” and his 2001 graphic novel “Saints,” helps to demonstrate diverse cultures and people.

MacArthur Fellowship for Financial Innovators and Educators

  • Daryl Baldwin, 53, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a linguist and a cultural, preservationist. He is the Director of the Myaamia Center. The center studies the cultural, linguistic heritage, and intellectual heritage of the Native Americans, Miami (Myaamia) nation. Moreover, Baldwin is a linguist who taught himself, as well as his family, the Miami language. He also helped in creating a tribal-academic partnership between Miami University in Ohio and the Miami nation.
  • Jose A. Quinonez, 45, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a financial services innovator. Quinonez is dedicated to providing immigrant, minorities, and low-income households with safe loans. He is the founder of the Mission Asset Fund that provides a non-predatory credit for people with limited or no financial access. The fund helps people build their credit history.
  • MacArthurAhilan Arulanantham, 43, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a human rights lawyer. He works as an attorney in Los Angeles, California. He has worked a series of cases, which have set a precedent, helping to limit the government’s ability to detain immigrants indefinitely.
  • Anne Basting, 51, is a theatrical artist and educator. She has improved the lives of elderly people with cognitive impairments through theater, collaborative public performances, and academic research. Her project, “TimeSlip,” is a storytelling method where people create stories and poems in response to specific cues.

Mac Arthur Fellowship for Artists

  • Vincent Fecteau, 47, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a sculptor. His artwork, which is not titled, from 2010 is an MacArthur interactive piece that promotes engagement and reflection. His artwork consists of cardboard, paper-mache, and collage paper. It can be rotated and reversed to allow multiple views of their surfaces.
  • Lauren Redniss, 42, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as an artist and writer. She is credited with pioneering a new form of visual storytelling. Redniss uses archived research tools, interviews and field research for her nonfiction works of visual artwork.
  • Joyce J. Scott, 67, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award as a jewelry maker and sculptor. She uses her art to articulate her commentary on political and social injustices. Scott addressed the role of the African-American woman and domestic servants in her collection called “The Mammy/Nanny Series.” She is said to have dark humor which shows in her 2008 work called Ancestry/Progeny. The art is a performance piece that exposes stereotypes about the black female body.
  • Julia Wolfe, 57, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work as a composer. She is known to base her pieces in historical and legendary narratives. Julia’s 2014 project, “Anthracite Fields,” is based on a year of research on the coal mining communities in Pennsylvania.

MacArthur Fellowship for Historians

  • MacArthur Kellie Jones, 57,  received a MacArthur Fellowship Award in for her work as an art historian and curator. She is a professor at Columbia University. She played a crucial role in introducing the public to black artists and campaigned to highlight the work of black artists that have been overlooked.
  • Josh Kun, 45, received a MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work as a cultural historian. Kun is a professor at the University of Southern California of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Kun’s work is focused on how the arts and popular culture are conduits for a cross-cultural exchange.

The MacArthur Foundation was founded by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur on Oct. 18, 1970, after a longtime friend, William T. Kirby, convinced him that a foundation would put his money to good use.

After MacArthur’s death on Jan. 6, 1978, from complications due to cancer, the Foundation assumed his assets at an estimated $1 billion. Moreover, it made its first two grants of $50,000 each to Amnesty International and the California League of Cities.

The MacArthur Fellowship is one of the largest independent foundations with offices in Chicago, India, Nigeria, and Mexico. The organization also works with and is supported in 50 other countries.

By Tracy Blake
Edited by Jeanette Smith


The Los Angeles Times: MacArthur fellow Lauren Redniss sees the art in science Theater Artist Anne Basting Named MacArthur Fellow
The New York Times: MacArthur Foundation Announces 2016 ‘Genius’ Grant Winners
The Daily Beast: Roundup: Winners of the 2016 MacArthur Genius Awards

Featured Image Courtesy of The U.S. Army’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Jonathan Emmanuel Flores Tarello’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inline Image Courtesy of Akron Community Foundation’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inline Image Courtesy of Dawn Dandy’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Third Inline Image Courtesy of ACLU of Southern California’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Forth Inline Image Courtesy of Columbia GSAPP’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Fifth Inline Image Courtesy of flickrsummer’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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