Two artists join the ranks of MacArthur fellows

What would you do with $500,000?

The members of the 2007 class of MacArthur Fellows have some thinking to do. Each year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gives no-strings-attached grants to two dozen or so gifted individuals with lots of potential. The list this year includes writers, engineers, biologists—and visual artists Whitfield Lovell and Joan Snyder.

The $500,000 is tax-free and paid in quarterly installments over five years, the idea being to take away any financial burden that might inhibit the recipients’ creative flow. (Only one catch: You can’t nominate yourself, and neither can your friends. The finalists and winners are selected by anonymous nominators and an anonymous committee.)

Lovell, 47, of New York City, does installations and tableaux on antique wood of people, often African-Americans who have not been memorialized by history, as he explains in a video interview. He says one of his biggest challenges as an artist has been making ends meet. He hopes to move on to bigger and more ambitious projects with the help of the grant.

Snyder, 67, of Brooklyn, New York, likens getting a MacArthur fellowship to having a baby. “I think I’ll probably get a lot more calls,” she says in her video interview when asked about how the grant will affect her. Her abstract paintings often incorporate found objects and elements of collage, and show a very personal evolution over her four-decade career.

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