The MacArthur Foundation has announced the recipients of this year's 2022 MacArthur Grant Fellows. Frequently referred to as the MacArthur "Genius Grant," the Foundation awards "unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction."
This year, notable Chicago-based visual artist and architect Amanda Williams is among the 2022 MacArthur grant winners. In total, 25 individuals were selected as grant recipients across various areas of study, including sociology, computer science, music, film, and math, to name a few. Each fellow will receive a "no strings attached" stipend over the course of five years.
Williams is a trained architect who received her B.Arch from Cornell University. Her architectural background builds on discussions of race and the built environment through artistic expression. Throughout her career, her work has focused on equity and its relationship to Black communities. She investigates the impacts of urban planning, zoning, disinvestment, and gentrification and how they impact marginalized communities.
"It was growing up on the South Side and seeing inequities of how space seemed to be laid out across the city that was the impetus for architecture. Later on, I realized that visual art often has a way to resonate with a lot of the things that I was thinking about in a way that architecture did not."
Williams' work pulls from her own experiences and how those moments can foster important discussions regarding race, inequity, public space, and culture. "I'm always imagining ways that I might use architecture as a medium to talk about spatial experiences that people might have," she shared with the MacArthur Foundation. "Art can function in that same way. Whether it's sharking up a map or painting an abstraction of candy colors from childhood memory."
Examples of her multidisciplinary approach combining art and architecture can be seen in works such as What Black Is This, You Say?, and Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See a Line), and her most recent project, Embodied Sensations.
She discussed her best-known project, Color(ed) Theory, with the MacArthur Foundation and shared, "I studied color theory in architecture school, and I really wanted to explore what 'colored theory' might mean when race and the medium or the hue of the pigment are interchangeable or can inform one another [...] There's something very powerful about inserting new memories into people's psyches about what should be valued and how we can create value."
Williams' work has been exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions at MoMA, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Smithsonian Design Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and Storefront for Art and Architecture. In addition to her personal works, Williams has also held teaching positions at Cornell University, Washington University in St. Louis, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and California College of the Arts.
She joins a list of previous MacArthur Grant winners who also work within the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. Past grant winners include Kate Orff, Damon Rich, Walter Hood, Emmanual Pratt, Jeanne Gang, Elizabeth Diller, and Ricardo Scofidio, to name a few. To learn more about this year's 2022 MacArthur Fellows and their work click here.
Hear more from Willams in a special Fellow video from the MacArthur Foundation below.
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