In the midst of a barrage of fire-related news last week, I neglected to note that the brilliant Taylor Mac who just completed the second-ever complete performance of his 24-Decade History of Popular Music in San Francisco was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship grant. The grant, often referred to as the foundation's "genius" grant, much to their displeasure, is a no-strings-attached sum of $625,000 spread over five years, with which an artist, scholar, scientist, activist, or leading figure in any number of fields can do whatever they please. The foundation says it awards these fellowships to "exceptionally creative people,” and Mac is one of two dozen recipients this year.
Recipients were apparently informed several weeks ago, so it's possible Mac was in the midst of his performances here when he heard the good news.
"I’m still in a bit of a haze," Mac told the New York Times. "It’s ridiculous. It’s wonderful. It’s embarrassing. It’s all of it."
Mac's 24-hour work, which traces American history through a queer lens via popular songs and the stories of marginalized groups, has been lauded widely despite only having been performed once prior to last month, at a single 24-hour performance in Brooklyn last fall. Following that, the piece was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in drama, and received the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, the same prize that Hamilton won in 2016 and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was also a MacArthur grant recipient.
Previously, Mac was awarded a fellowship in 2016 by the John Simon Guggenheim foundation.
Other MacArthur "geniuses" this year, per CBS News, include Los Angeles-based opera director and producer Yuval Sharon of The Industry, playwright Annie Baker, Stanford-based mathematician and statistician Emmanuel Candès, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen.
This list is as follows:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, painter, Los Angeles.
Sunil Amrith, historian, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Greg Asbed, human rights strategist, Immokalee, Fla.
Annie Baker, playwright, New York.
Regina Barzilay, computer scientist, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Dawoud Bey, photographer and educator, Chicago.
Emmanuel Candès, mathematician and statistician, Stanford, Calif.
Jason De León, anthropologist, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Rhiannon Giddens, singer and songwriter, Greensboro, N.C.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, journalist, New York.
Cristina Jiménez Moreta, social justice organizer, Washington, D.C.
Taylor Mac, theater artist, New York.
Rami Nashashibi, community leader, Chicago.
Viet Thanh Nguyen, fiction writer and cultural critic, Los Angeles.
Kate Orff, landscape architect, New York.
Trevor Paglen, artist and geographer, Berlin.
Betsy Levy Paluck, psychologist, Princeton, New Jersey.
Derek Peterson, historian, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Damon Rich, designer and urban planner, Newark, New Jersey.
Stefan Savage, computer scientist, La Jolla, California.
Yuval Sharon, opera director/producer, Los Angeles.
Tyshawn Sorey, composer and musician, Middletown, Connecticut.
Gabriel Victora, immunologist, New York.
Jesmyn Ward, fiction writer, New Orleans
Related: In Which I Gush And Process The Wonder Of 'A 24-Decade History Of Popular Music'