Musicians, Poets, Silversmith Among 2011 MacArthur Fellows

BY Molly Finnegan  September 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST

Early Tuesday, it was announced that a Washington advocate for the elderly, a New York radio producer, a Harvard economist studying financial inequality and a sports injury researcher from North Carolina all had something new in common. In fact, they joined 18 others in becoming members of an enviable elite: They are the latest class of MacArthur Fellows, an honor that awards $500,000 to leading scholars, thinkers and creatives in the United States.

Seven of the fellows are directly involved in the arts. Among them is Kay Ryan, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate, who has appeared numerous times on the NewsHour. Ryan, 65, has taught writing to community college students for 40 years and is the author of seven volumes of poetry and one anthology of her work.

Other artists, writers and musicians in the group include Dafnis Prieto, a Cuban-born jazz percussionist who interprets the music of his upbringing in a dynamic jazz form; Ubaldo Vitali, a fourth-generation silversmith who is both a conservator learning about past traditions and and an artist forging new forms; and Alisa Weilerstein, a talented young cellist whose repetoire includes both classical and contemporary composers.

Click below to see a slide show of 2011 MacArthur recipients in the arts:

 
Editor’s Note: You can find Art Beat coverage of last year’s MacArthur Fellowships here. We also talked to fellows Sebastian Ruth, Jason Moran, Yiyun Li, Nicholas Benson and Elizabeth Turk.