Maybe it’s in the water?
Among the recipients of this year’s MacArthur Foundation fellowships — often referred to as “genius grants” — is yet another winner with Greensboro connections.
Architect Walter Hood is an alumnus of N.C. A&T who sees deeper purposes to his creations than merely pleasing the eyes of beholders.
Hood, a Charlotte native and Oakland, Calif., resident, designs “urban spaces that resonate with and enrich the lives of current residents while also honoring communal histories,” the MacArthur Foundation said in a release.
He is known as a “community whisperer” who weaves a sense of place and culture into his designs. In addition to imaginative works installed across the country, Hood has produced one close to home.
Among the bridge designs that may span the renovated Business 40 in Winston-Salem is one of his — a graceful pedestrian overpass intended to connect that city’s downtown with Old Salem. It would be the first urban land bridge in North Carolina.
Hood, 61 received his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from A&T in 1981. He is founder and creative director of his own design studio, as well as a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning and urban design at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught for 27 years.
You may remember that one of last year’s MacArthur grant winners had Greensboro ties as well. Fiction writer Kelly Link, who received her MFA from UNCG, won a fellowship in 2018.
And the year before that, a Greensboro native, singer-musician Rhiannon Giddens, was a recipient.
This year’s winners also include two others with North Carolina connections:
Mel Chin, a visual artist and educator who “uses his practice to raise awareness of social and environmental concerns,” according to Artforum. Born in Houston to Chinese parents in 1951, he received a bachelor’s degree from Peabody College in Nashville and later settled into the mountains north of Asheville. His work has been displayed nationally and internationally.
Jenny Tung, an evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist who teaches at Duke. Her work concentrates on the long-term health consequences of social stress. Her work has taken her on repeated trips to Kenya, where she has studied the wild baboons of Amboseli, analyzing their DNA and observing their social structure to see how they influence one another. Her research has found evidence that low social status leads to disparities in health, which may have ramifications for humans.
The MacArthur grants are awarded to “individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” Each recipient receives $625,000 over five years, which he or he may use as they please. The winners come from a wide variety of disciplines, including philosophy, literature, law and design, as well as science and the arts.
We’d like to think that North Carolina’s rich and diverse culture has provided an environment in which such bright and exceptional people can thrive.
So we don’t mind basking a little in their reflected glory.