The fellowships, popularly known as MacArthur genius grants, are given to scholars and artists. This year's class of 11 women and 13 men will receive stipends of $625,000 payable over the next five years with no requirements on how they use the money and no duty to report on their activities.
"This year's class of MacArthur Fellows is an extraordinary group of individuals who collectively reflect the breadth and depth of American creativity," said Cecilia Conrad, the program's vice president.
The 2013 fellows range in age from Karen Russell, a 32-year-old writer in New York, to 60-year-old Carrie Weems, a photographer and video artist in Syracuse, N.Y. While many of the fellows live in the New York City area they include Margaret Stock, a lawyer in Anchorage, Alaska, involved with immigration policy, and Jeffrey Brenner, a primary care physician in Camden, N.J.
Kyle Abraham, 36, a dancer and founder of Kyle Abraham/Abraham In Motion in New York, told The New York Times that three years ago he was receiving food stamps.
"It was a shock," he said of the grant. "I was laughing about it; I was crying about it, it was so overwhelming. I've been trying to figure out how to pay off my student loans to this day."
The program was created by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. John D. MacArthur, who died in 1978, made a fortune in the insurance business in Illinois and in investments in real estate in Florida.