The MacArthur Fellows Program
It is often hard to secure enough time and money for intellectual and aesthetic labor (case in point: the slowed consistency of this blog). One reason why academia is structured as such is that original research takes more energy than a simultaneous 9 -5 job will allow.
The MacArthur Foundation recognizes this cruel reality but does something about it. One cannot simply apply to be a MacArthur Fellow - one is chosen by a secret constituency of peers. A MacArthur fellowship is designed to let the avowed movers and shakers of the world do their moving and shaking. A generous sum of $500,000 is paid out, quarterly, over five years. Freed from any financial and institutional obligations (most bosses will gladly let a MacArthur Fellow take off as much time as they need, since their status as a fellow greatly increases their value to the institution), these lucky persons can develop their skills as best they see fit.
This fellowship is often (though the foundation claims, unfairly) called a "genius grant." Despite protests to the contrary, these men and women are geniuses. A brief survey of past fellows reveals just that.
In fiction writing: Ernest J. Gaines, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace. In music: Ornette Coleman, Ali Akbar Khan, Cecil Taylor, John Zorn. In photography/film: Lee Friedlander, Errol Morris, John Sayles, Bill Viola. In poetry: Alice Fulton, Edward Hirsch, Robert Penn Warren.
In the visual arts: David Macaulay, James Turrell, Cindy Sherman. Beyond that, there are long lists of winners in the humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences. The names in these fields are equally illustrious.
Anyone care to nominate me?