CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — Of the 25 winners of the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowships, known as the “genius grants,” three are from Chicago.
They include a sociologist exploring the effects of mass incarceration, a jazz cellist focusing on improvisational techniques, and an architect examining divestment and urban development.
All winners receive $800,000 over five years with no strings attached.
Reuben Jonathan Miller, 46, is a University of Chicago sociologist, criminologist, and social worker who examines the consequences of incarceration, incorporating his personal experiences as a chaplain and parent of imprisoned people. His book Halfway: Race, Punishment, and the Beyond of Mass Incarceration steps back in time as a volunteer chaplain at Cook County Jail and “his experiences with his brother’s and father’s prison entanglements.”
“History isn’t linear. Time passes, but we don’t move from one victory to another until we get closer to some version of the truth or a big new world where our problems are gone,” Miller said. “Our fight is to create a world where everyone belongs, even the people we have learned to be afraid of.”
Tomeka Reid, 44, is a jazz cellist and composer from Chicago whose work draws inspiration from her community and forges unique combinations of instruments to reinvent classic works and expand the expressive possibilities of cello improvisation. . Reid earned an MM degree from DePaul University in 2002 and an DMA degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival.
Reid founded the Chicago Jazz String Summit in 2013. It is an annual event celebrating string instruments and their “unique contributions to the sphere of jazz improvisation”. The event features performances, master classes and workshops.
According to the McArthur Foundation, “Reid fosters an atmosphere of exchange and experimentation among an international group of attendees. The event cultivates new audiences and provides support for up-and-coming musicians. Reid honors jazz’s past while advancing the field and expanding the expressive possibilities of the cello in improvised music.”
Amanda Williams is the 48-year-old Chicago-based artist and architect whose work explores the intersection of race and the built environment and invites the community to participate in reimagining their space. In 2014, she and a group of friends pained a number of homes in Englewood that were due for demolition. The project was called color theory (2014-2015) and according to the McArthur Foundation:
“They painted each structure a vibrant color with cultural associations immediately obvious to the neighborhood’s predominantly black residents: Harold’s Chicken Shack red, Ultrasheen conditioner blue, Safe Passage yellow. In doing so, Williams created bold visualizations of life community in the neighborhood, despite the neglect and disinvestment that have contributed to the deterioration of structures.The series also asks questions about how the economic, cultural, and aesthetic value of an object or community is determined.
His works have been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago,
The Associated Press contributed to this report.