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CalArts Faculty Member Maggie Nelson Receives 2016 MacArthur “genius award” Fellowship

CalArts Faculty Member Maggie Nelson Receives 2016 MacArthur “genius award” Fellowship
Maggie Nelson, 2016 MacArthur Fellow. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Valencia, CA—September 22— The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that author Maggie Nelson is among the 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2016.  Chair of the Creative Writing Program in the School of Critical Studies at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Nelson will receive a “genius award” of $620,000. The foundation grants this no-strings-attached award to individuals who have shown “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”  Click here for video about Nelson and her work.  

 “Maggie has a unique ability to write about charged subjects—pain, identity, gender, violence, family, desire—in an entirely fresh genre-crossing way, while maintaining always a clarity and balance of mind,” said CalArts President Steven D. Lavine. “She has created her own category of writing and artmaking. We are fortunate to have her leading the Creative Writing Program at CalArts, encouraging students in their own unique directions.”

In 2015, The Guardian called Nelson, “one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today.” She is the author of much-lauded nonfiction works such as The Red Parts (2007), Bluets (2009), The Art of Cruelty (2011) and The Argonauts (2015), as well as the poetry collections Something BrightThen Holes (2007), Jane: A Murder (2005), The Latest Winter (2003) and Shiner (2001). 

For The Argonauts, Nelson won a 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. The book is part memoir and part examination of gender, sexual politics and art. She described it as “a long tribute to the many feminist heroes that I had as teachers, men as well as women (among them Eve Sedgwick, Eileen Myles, Wayne Koestenbaum); I call them ‘the many gendered mothers of my heart’.” 

The MacArthur Foundation further describes Nelson’s oeuvre:

“In all of her work, Nelson remains skeptical of truisms and ideologies and continually challenges herself to consider multiple perspectives. Her empathetic and open-ended way of thinking—her willingness to change her mind and even embrace qualities of two seemingly incompatible positions—offers a powerful example for how very different people can think and live together. Through the dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory, Nelson is broadening the scope of nonfiction writing while also offering compelling meditations on social and cultural questions.”

Nelson received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She joined CalArts in 2005 and currently serves as Chair of the Creative Writing Program.

Read more about Maggie Nelson in press announcing her award:

Newsweek, Writer Maggie Nelson Wins a MacArthur Genius Grant’

Los Angeles Times, Maggie Nelson, new MacArthur fellow, says, 'You've just got to do what each book demands'

Wall Street Journal, Maggie Nelson, Author of ‘The Argonauts,’ Wins MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Previous CalArtians who’ve received MacArthur genius grants include artist and curator of the Museum of Jurassic Technology David Wilson (Film/Video MFA 76), photo-text  and video artist Carrie Mae Weems (Art BFA 81), actor and mime Bill Irwin (Theater 72), mixed media painter Mark Bradford (Art BFA 95, MFA 97) and Chicano performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña (Art BFA 83, MFA 85).

Learn more about the class of 2016 MacArthur Fellows.

Ranked as America’s top college for students in the arts by Newsweek/The Daily BeastCalifornia Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.