The MacArthur Fellowship recently came to my attention because Alison Bechdel (Fun Home, cartoonist and graphic memoirist) was awarded one of the grants in 2014. The MacArthur Foundation chooses 20 -25 fellows who receive a grant of $625,000 paid in installments over 5 years. They also have a no strings attached policy to allow those selected to do what ever they want with the funds, with no reporting obligations.
This is the stuff of dreams in my opinion. Winning a MacArthur Fellows grant and being given the freedom to pursue whatever you choose. How extraordinary!
From the macfound.org website:
What is the MacArthur Fellowship?
The MacArthur Fellowship is a five-year grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future. The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements. There are no limits on age or area of activity. Individuals cannot apply for this award; they must be nominated.
What are the selection criteria?
The selection decisions focus primarily on exceptional creativity, as demonstrated through a track record of significant achievement, and manifest promise for important future advances. Emphasis is placed on nominees for whom our support would relieve limitations that inhibit them from pursuing their most innovative ideas. The MacArthur Fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award; we are looking for individuals on the precipice of great discovery or a game-changing idea. Recipients must also be citizens or residents of the United States and must not hold elective office or advanced positions in government as defined by statute.
Why are no strings attached?
The MacArthur Fellowship is designed to provide seed money for intellectual, social, and artistic endeavors. We believe that highly motivated, self-directed, and talented people are in the best position to decide how to allocate their time and resources. By adopting a “no strings attached” policy, we provide the maximum freedom for the recipients to follow their creative vision, whether it is moving forward with their current activities, expanding the scope of their work, or embarking in entirely new directions. There are no restrictions on how the money can be spent, and we impose no reporting obligations.
How does the program define “creativity”?
Creativity comprises the drive and ability to make something new or to connect the seemingly unconnected in significant ways so as to enrich our understanding of ourselves, our communities, the world, and the universe that we inhabit. Creativity can take many forms: asking questions that open onto fields of inquiry as yet unexplored; developing innovative solutions to perplexing problems; inventing novel methods, tools, or art forms; fusing ideas from different disciplines into wholly new constructions; producing works that broaden the horizons of the imagination.