This morning, the MacArthur Founation named its 2013 class of MacArthur Fellows, commonly referred to as “Genius Grants,” and this year’s class includes five visionary artists and scholars of color. Photographer Carrie Mae Weems, playwright Tarell McCraney, choreographer Kyle Abraham, musician Vijay Iyer, and researcher Angela Duckworth have been named among this year’s winners.
Here’s more about each artist. Biographies and videos are from the MacArthur Foundation.
Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer and video installation artist examining the complex and contradictory legacy of African American identity, class, and culture in the United States. Her intimate depictions of children, adults, and families in simple settings document and interpret the ongoing and centuries-old struggle for racial equality, human rights, and social inclusion in America.
Tarell Alvin McCraney is a playwright exploring the rich diversity of the African American experience in works that imbue the lives of ordinary people with epic significance. Complementing his poetic, intimate language with a musical sensibility and rhythmic, often ritualistic movement, McCraney transforms intentionally minimalist stages into worlds marked by metaphor and imagery.
Kyle Abraham is a choreographer and dancer probing the relationship between identity and personal history through a unique hybrid of traditional and vernacular dance styles that speaks to a new generation of dancers and audiences. With diverse training in music, visual art, and dance—and breathtaking skill as a performer—Abraham’s highly physical dance vocabulary reflects the youthful energy of the hip-hop and urban dance he encountered in his adolescence as well as a strong grounding in modern dance technique.
Vijay Iyer is a pianist, composer, bandleader, electronic musician, and writer forging a new conception of jazz and American creative music through an eclectic oeuvre that includes compositions for his own and other ensembles, collaborations across multiple genres and disciplines, and scholarly research on the act of listening. An ardent investigator of musical communities, practices, histories, and theories, he mines core rhythmic, melodic, and structural elements from a wide range of sources to construct richly varied, improvisation-driven solo and ensemble music.
Angela Duckworth is a psychologist whose studies are clarifying the role that intellectual strengths and personality traits play in educational achievement. Duckworth’s work primarily examines two traits that she demonstrates predict success in life: grit—the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward long-term goals—and self-control—the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses. A major difference between the two qualities is that grit equips individuals to pursue especially challenging aims over years and even decades, while self-control operates at a more micro timescale in the battle against what could be referred to as “hourly temptations.”