It's official: there are a lot of geniuses around these parts. Well, four at least. We learn today via the Chronicle that four people in the Bay Area are official winners of this year's MacArthur "genius award" — a prestigious honor meant to recognize individuals whose "creativity, dedication, and impact inspire us all." The award, in the form of a substantial financial payout, is also meant to encourage future outstanding work by freeing up artists and scientists to create without the burden of worrying about money.
Twenty-three people of varying backgrounds and fields received the highly coveted prize, technically known as the MacArthur Fellowship, this year. The four Bay Area winners are perhaps representative of the whole in that they include a sculptor, an inventor, a graphic novelist, and the founder of a non-profit that helps poor individuals build up a credit history.
“It was a shock,” Manu Prakash, a Stanford biologist who developed a water-based computer and a low-cost folding microscope, told the Chronicle. “Quite a humbling experience. It’s a huge honor.”
Vincent Fecteau, the San Francisco-based sculptor, mainly works in papier-mâché and creates pieces that, according to the foundation, "cohere into balanced forms even as they seem to hover on the verge of instability."
José Quiñonez, also of San Francisco, works in a different field of instability — the credit scores of the poor. Founder of the Mission Asset Fund, the Foundation explains that Quiñonez "is a financial services innovator creating a pathway to mainstream financial services and non-predatory credit for individuals with limited or no financial access."
Gene Luen Yang of San Jose, on the other hand, words in graphic art with a focus on "bringing diverse characters to children’s and young adult literature and confirming comics’ place as an important creative and imaginative force within literature and art."
This being the Bay Area, of course it is not the first time our region's brains have been recognized by the organization. Three locals were named in 2010 as MacArthur Fellows, another three were named in 2009, and another was named in 2008.
In addition to the prestige, each of the four will receive $625,000. Oh, and just in case your mom asks, you can't nominate yourself or apply for the award.