When silversmith Ubaldo Vitali got the phone call, he thought it was a joke. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein nearly wrote off her email as spam. But it was neither a joke or spam: Vitali and Weilerstein are among this year’s 22 recipients of the MacArthur Foundation’s $500,000 “genius grants." Since the annual fellows are chosen through a secret process, most are shocked when they receive notification, the Wall Street Journal notes.
Recipients of the grants, which offer a chance to pursue projects with no strings attached, also include the architect of what's thought to be the tallest building designed by a woman, a chemist, a historian, a public radio show co-host, and a New Yorker correspondent, among others. The grants come with a sense of great responsibility, notes Vitali: “You have to rise to the occasion." See the Journal for a complete list of fellows.