The MacArthur Foundation named 24 recipients of its coveted MacArthur “genius” fellowship grants on Wednesday, and among them are five New Yorkers and two City University of New York alumni.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker, a 2009 graduate of Brooklyn College, and Cristina Jiménez Moreta, a 2007 graduate of Queens College and co-founder and executive director of United We Dream, received unrestricted grants of $625,000 payable quarterly over five years.
“These two MacArthur Fellowships highlight our extraordinary students and faculty,” said CUNY chancellor James B. Milliken in a statement. “Cristina Jiménez Moreta has been a dynamic advocate for the rights of Dreamers since her undergraduate days … and playwright Annie Baker not only writes riveting theater, but also helps train the next generation of playwrights. CUNY is proud of them both.”
Other New Yorkers among the 24 recipients are investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, theater writer/director/performer Taylor Mac, urban habitat and landscape architect Kate Orff, and immunologist Gabriel Victora.
The MacArthur Fellowship examines three criteria for selection: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work, according to the organization’s website.
Baker’s emphasis on silence and pacing, particularly in her works “Circle Mirror Transformation” and “The Aliens,” caught the foundation’s attention. “Baker captures the humor, absurdity, and tragedy that result from the limitations of language and our fraught search for more meaningful human connections,” the foundation wrote.
Jiménez Moreta was noted for her key role in creating one of the nation’s largest youth-led network of organizations focusing on issues facing immigrant communities. “UWD also connects its work with that of other social justice movements and has forged alliances with LGBTQ, black, and other racial justice and immigration reform communities,” according to macfound.org.