MacArthur Genius Winner: I Thought it Was Spam
Meet the 2011 fellows
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2011 6:25 AM CDT
In this Sept. 18, 2011 photo provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ubaldo Vitali, 67, a fourth-generation silversmith, conservator and scholar, is photographed in New York.   (AP Photo/John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Christopher Lane)
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(Newser) – 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.