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September 2014
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Winners of Genius Grants “Inspire us all”

Public artist Rick Lowe

Public artist Rick Lowe

Historian Tara Zahra

Tami Bond

Environmental engineer Tami Bond

People who win don’t even know they’ve been considered, but on Wednesday they were identified by international news agencies as “21 extraordinarily creative people who inspire us all.” Some are scientists; others are historians, poets, or lawyers. There’s an artist, a jazz musician, and a cartoonist. They are the 2014 MacArthur Fellows, recipients of what’s often called the genius grant, a $625,000 cash prize – no strings attached.

Funded by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the vetting process is conducted in secrecy; candidates cannot apply.

Mark Hersam

Material scientist Mark Hersam

Alison Bechdel

Cartoonist Alison Bechdel

Three of the newly announced Fellows live and work in Illinois: Tami Bond





is an environmental engineer at the University of Illinois in Champaign. She studies the effects of black carbon emissions on the environment and on human health.

Northwestern’s materials scientist Mark Hersam studies nanomaterials, and their potential for use in energy, biotechnology, and information technology. The third Illinoisan is Tara Zahra an historian at the University of Chicago who specializes in modern Europe.


Khaled Mattawa, Translator/Poet, University of Michigan

Poet Khaled Mattawa

Jazz artist Steve Coleman

In the arts, recipients include: Alison Bechdel, a graphic artist who crafts complex, multilayered narratives combining social commentary with observations about family, through the interplay of text and cartoons. She is the creator of Dykes to Watch Out For, the comic strip which ran from 1983 to 2008.

The MacArthur Foundation recognized saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman, an active performer, as well as founder of M-Based Concepts, Inc., which provides support to artists and encourages players young and old to push the boundaries of their art form.

Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer

Poet Terrance Hayes

Two poets are among the 2014 Fellows: who writes poetry and is translating Arabic-language poetry into English, with the purpose of bridging cultural divides.

Terrance Hayes, who writes about race, gender, and family; and University of Michigan-based Khaled Mattawa,

“Public Artist” Rick Lowe received a genius grant for his visionary organization Project Row Houses, which transforms derelict properties in low-income neighborhoods into art.

Playwright Samuel D. Hunter was recognized. He is author of The Whale, and is in residence at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater (in the old Biograph Theater).

Samuel Hunter

Playwright Samuel D. Hunter

Danish filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer also received the genius grant for his gripping examinations of challenging subjects, including an intimate look at religious zealotry, anti-government militiamen; and worker abuse and state-sponsored massacres in Indonesia.

See the complete list of 2014 MacArthur Fellows.





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