Meet This Year's MacArthur 'Geniuses'

Ta-Nehisi Coates of the 'Atlantic' among the winners of foundation's $500K grants
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2015 7:01 AM CDT
Meet This Year's MacArthur 'Geniuses'
Grant winner Ta-Nehisi Coates.   (MacArthur Foundation)

Two dozen people just earned their genius papers and a cool $500,000 each. The MacArthur Foundation has announced its annual "genius" grants, awarded to honorees in a variety of fields, including music, photography, and the sciences, NPR reports. The winners will each receive their cash prizes over five years so they can continue making inroads in their respective fields or have the freedom to apply their smarts in completely new areas. Among this year's honorees:

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates: The 39-year-old journalist and national correspondent for the Atlantic and author of the recent memoir Between the World and Me is perhaps best known for tackling such complex, nuanced subjects as slave reparations, racial bias, and urban policing in America. "I was ecstatic," he says on receiving the call. "And then I was deeply, deeply honored. … If anybody even reads what I'm doing, that's a great day," he says in a short video on the foundation's website.
  • LaToya Ruby Frazier: This 33-year-old photographer and video artist uses the power of her imagery to show "the consequences of postindustrial decline for marginalized communities" and to spur conversation about how we can bring about change through social responsibility.
  • Peidong Yang: An inorganic chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, the 44-year-old Yang has been a major innovator in the field of nanowire photonics, including harnessing the power of solar energy and funneling it into practical applications.
  • Beth Stevens: At the age of 45, this Harvard neuroscientist "is prompting a significant shift in thinking about neuron communication in the healthy brain and the origins of adult neurological diseases," per the foundation's site. Her work is reframing how we look at how the brain is wired and how the nervous and immune systems interact.
  • Nicole Eisenman: Using painting, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking, among other media, Eisenman, 50, delves into societal themes such as gender and sexuality, income disparity, and family dynamics. She's also known for staging "dialogues with artists from the past," incorporating specific works and stylistic and thematic approaches from art historical movements into her work.
  • Basil Twist: Perhaps the most interesting entry on this year's list, Twist, 46, is a puppeteer and theater artist in NYC who uses sophisticated choreography and global puppet traditions (think string-and-rod marionettes, hand puppets, and Japanese bunraku) to "explore the boundaries between the animate and inanimate, the abstract and the figurative.
See the full list of winners here. (More MacArthur Foundation stories.)

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