All year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellowship and highlighting the MacArthur Fellows Program’s commitment to recognizing exceptionally creative and inspiring individuals with no-strings-attached grants.
Much has changed over the past forty years, but a few things have stayed the same: MacArthur Fellows in various fields have pursued their creative ideas, cultivated cross-disciplinary collaborations, and inspired us with their field-changing endeavors.
Throughout the year, we have been posting reflections from MacArthur Fellows on how the Fellowship has impacted them. Today, we are sharing seven more perspectives on how the award has impacted their work, outlook, and much more.
What observations do you find most interesting? Join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #Fellows40.
“After receiving the MacArthur Fellowship, I immediately embarked on my most ambitious project to date. I wanted to offer a fall. I made a sculpture that I balanced on and fell into. I learned to tightrope and then found a stuntman to teach me how to fall without hurting myself. I have continued to pursue my romance with balance. With time, I have come to trust the play between balance and imbalance. Now I see it as a dynamic rhythmic force that propels my life. In fact, a way to describe growth itself.” — Janine Antoni, Sculptor and Installation Artist, 1998 MacArthur Fellow
“The MacArthur fellowship enabled extraordinary explore multidisciplinary research opportunities for me. For example, meeting Roger Payne at one of the MacArthur gatherings led to a 2009 project where we used flying robots in a tracking and census study of Southern Right Whales. This work was done when quadrotor robots were exotic research systems. Since then, Roger and I continued to connect the latest technological advancements in AI to study nature. Today, we are working together as part of a team aiming to decode the language of sperm whales, in the hope that eventually we might be able to talk back to them.“— Daniela Rus, Computer Scientist and Roboticist, 2002 MacArthur Fellow
“My MacArthur Fellowship has enabled me to study uses of media and information technologies alongside community members, students, and artists in transnational contexts. This photo was taken at the end of my lab’s two-week Social IT Solutions workshop in Salvador, Brazil in January 2020, just before the global pandemic started.”— Lisa Parks, Media Scholar, 2018 MacArthur Fellow
“The studio which I bought with my MacArthur Fellowship has always been a place of refuge, concentration, and productivity. But never did I think it would become as invaluable as it has during the past year when, unable to travel for concerts, I could walk over here day after day, turn on the lights, make the strongest pot of coffee, and work intensely throughout the lockdown. It has been a life-saver, a sanity-saver, and the most perfect launching pad for many new projects.“— Stephen Hough, Pianist, 2001 MacArthur Fellow
“The MacArthur Fellowship gave me the freedom to plunge ahead with building an institute to help bring creative thinking to public policy, and also provided me with a new network of colleagues and collaborators. The Jefferson Institute continues to work on issues ranging from universal healthcare in California to reintegration of veterans to civilian life.”— Joan Abrahamson, Community Development Leader, 1985 MacArthur Fellow
“The pandemic has really driven home the importance of technology to the work of the social sector. What a journey from when I first joined the Fellowship and felt pretty much alone as a techie working for social good, to today when hundreds of nonprofits identify as tech-for-good organizations!”— Jim Fruchterman, Technologist, 2006 MacArthur Fellow