Cal Arts’ Maggie Nelson receives MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Maggie Nelson, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, At home, Los Angeles, CA, 09.07.2016.

The MacArthur Foundation named Maggie Nelson, chair of the MFA Creative Writing Program at California Institute of the Arts, a 2016 McArthur Fellow Thursday.

Commonly known as the “genius grant,” the MacArthur Fellows Program awards a $625,000 grant to each winner for proven creativity and future contributions in their field. Nelson was one of 23 individuals selected as 2016 MacArthur Fellows.

Nelson, who joined CalArts in 2005, is an author of five nonfiction books and four poetry books.

“In all of her work, Nelson remains skeptical of truisms and ideologies and continually challenges herself to consider multiple perspectives,” the MacArthur Foundation said on its website.

The MacArthur Foundation selected Nelson for her ability, as a writer, to render “pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day experience in works of nonfiction marked by dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory.”

Nelson was also noted for her empathetic and open-ended way of thinking and her willingness to embrace qualities of two incompatible positions. The MacArthur Foundation claims she is an example of how different people can think and live together.

“Maggie has a unique ability to write about charged subjects—pain, identity, gender, violence, family, desire—in an entirely fresh genre-crossing way, while maintaining always a clarity and balance of mind,” said CalArts President Steven D. Lavine in a press release.

Before being named the 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Nelson received the 2007 Arts Writers Grant from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation, the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, the 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and the 2013 Innovative Literature grant from Creative Capital.

She has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Her 2011 art and cultural criticism “The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning” was named New York Times Notable Book of the Year and Editors’ Choice and her nonfiction book “The Argonauts” was named a 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Past CalArts MacArthur Fellows Program winners include: David Wilson (Film/Video MFA 76), Carrie Mae Weems (Art BFA 81), Bill Irwin (Theater 72), Mark Bradford (Art BFA 95, MFA 97), Guillermo Gómez-Peña (Art BFA 83, MFA 85) and CalArts Trustee Joan Abrahamson.

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