LOS ANGELES, CA — Two Southland residents — a Santa Monica playwright and choreographer and an American historian who lives in Los Angeles — were among the 21 MacArthur Fellows announced Tuesday.
Santa Monica resident Larissa FastHorse and USC professor Natalia Molina will each receive a $625,000, no-strings-attached award, which is intended as an investment in their creativity and potential rather than a lifetime achievement prize.
The director of the fellows program for the MacArthur Foundation said the writers, scientists, artists and scholars recognized Tuesday are doing extraordinary work.
"In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration," managing director Cecilia Conrad said. "They are asking critical questions, developing innovative technologies and public policies, enriching our understanding of the human condition, and producing works of art that provoke and inspire us."
FastHorse, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, seeks to counter misrepresentation of Native American perspectives with her art. Her 2018 "The Thanksgiving Play," which has been staged at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, among others, was a satire centered on "woke" white teachers trying to stage a historically responsible retelling of Thanksgiving and emphasized how colonial myths continue to hold sway in America.
The 49-year-old playwright is at work on the final play of a trilogy of place-based works that rely on a years-long immersion in various Native communities. In addition to playwriting, FastHorse Horse is the co-founder of Indigenous Direction, which advises on theater and film projects that address Native issues and also speaks out as an advocate for working alongside Native communities.
"To me, theater is life," FastHorse said. "Theater is everywhere and everything, and all human beings participate in theater."
Natalia Molina is a professor of American studies and ethnicity at USC who says she has always been fascinated by why some groups of immigrants were readily accepted as Americans while others were not. As a historian, she looks at how concepts of race, citizenship and belonging characterize narratives of racial difference and compares the history of Latino and Asian immigrants.
"I was always fascinated by the fact that certain groups were seen as able to assimilate while others were not," Molina said. "Why are some people accepted as American more readily than others?"
Molina's most recent book, "How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts," relies on archival sources to analyze the characterization of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants as unsuitable for citizenship during the middle of the 20th century.
The foundation, which has awarded 1,061 fellowships since 1981, uses three criteria for selection: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances, and potential for the fellowship to support creative work.
The foundation does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.
Watch a video with Molina describing what she explores about racism in America and Los Angeles.
Watch a video with FastHorse describing why she shares who she is and Indigenous stories.
- City News Service and Patch Editor Nicole Charky contributed to this report.