MacArthur Grants Snub Art World

What's the secret of winning? It helps to get around.

The annual MacArthur Grant list is out, and it nearly snubs the art world, awarding only cartoonist Alison Bechdel with the no-strings-attached $625,000, along with Rick Lowe, a Texas artist and community advocate.

Lowe, named by President Obama to the National Council for the Arts in 2013, was praised for his sweeping and transformative “art-driven redevelopment projects” in Houston and North Dallas, along with the Watts House Project in Los Angeles and a post-Katrina rebuilding effort in New Orleans. Bechdel is known best for her “Dykes to Watch Out For” comic strip, which she has published since 1983, along with a series of acclaimed, sometimes autobiographical, books.

Overall, academics and mathematicians did very well (the MacArthur loves mathematicians). The traditional fine-arts and contemporary arts worlds got nada.

In the past, artists Robert Irwin, Carrie Mae Weems and Ann Hamilton, among other visual artists, have won the so-called “Genius” grant. It is given out annually by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Alison Bechdel, a winner of the 2014 MacArthur "Genius" Grant. (Courtesy MacArthur Foundation).

Alison Bechdel, a winner of the 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Grant. (Courtesy MacArthur Foundation).

What’s the secret of winning? Who knows, but it helps to get around: a study by the Foundation of its 897 winners to date concludes that the MacArthur Fellows are “a highly mobile population.” But that raises the question, the study notes:  “Do highly creative people move more than others, or does moving make people more creative?”

NPR has details on the full list of 21 winners this year.