The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.
Among the 23 winners of what many refer to as the “Genius Grant”, were Hispanic-Americans Jorge Pardo and Carlos Bustamante.
Jorge Pardo, 47, is an installation artist that challenges the boundries between art and design. His paint, sculpture, and architecture work are simply stunning. Pardo never seemed to see the world the way most do. He saw what he could do with just his imagination and his hands and never looked back, but he is certainly not your average artist. He’s never seen fit to limit himself based on what others expect.
“I come from a working class background, so I never really understood that there were these cultural professions that people could sort of assimilate in to.”
A highly regarded population geneticist, 35 year-old Carlos D. Bustamante, was certainly not expecting a $500,000 phone call from the MacArthur Foundation.
“Receiving the MacArthur Fellowship was a complete shock and obviously just a wonderful surprise. I was incredibly flabbergasted when I received the call,” he said.
Bustamante explores DNA in order to gain insight to the dynamics and migration of populations and mechanisms of evolution and natural selection.
He said, “The other major goal of our work is to break down, in many ways, the traditional concepts and notions of race. I think one of the really key ideas that’s come about in the last 30 years of human genetic variation is that there aren’t [many] human races. Every population looks very similar to the population next door and there’s a continuum of human genetic variation and that continuum happens across a broad geographic range.”
The recipients just learned, through a phone call out of the blue from the Foundation, that they will each receive $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations and reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. The work of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavor.
“This group of Fellows, along with the more than 800 who have come before, reflects the tremendous breadth of creativity among us,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “They are explorers and risk takers, contributing to their fields and to society in innovative, impactful ways. They provide us all with inspiration and hope for the future.”