Diné artist and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Raven Chacon (Music MFA 04) was named one of the 20 2023 MacArthur Fellows on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Colloquially known as the MacArthur “genius” grants, the $800,000 unrestricted award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation honors talented individuals who have demonstrated “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.” The Foundation awards the grant to artists, thinkers, writers, scientists, scholars, advocates, and others as an “investment in their potential.”
In its announcement, the Foundation hails Chacon as an artist who creates musical experiences that explore relationships among space, sound, and people:
In an experimental practice that cuts across the boundaries of visual art, performance, and music, Chacon breaks open musical traditions and activates spaces of performance where the histories of the lands the United States has encroached upon can be contemplated, questioned, and reimagined.
Born in Fort Defiance, within the Navajo Nation in Arizona, and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Chacon earned his MFA in Music Composition at CalArts. In an interview with CalArts’ alumni magazine The Pool shortly after winning the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Voiceless Mass ensemble piece, Chacon discussed his time at CalArts.
“I had assumed that being a composer meant you wrote music on score paper,” he said. “When I went to CalArts, I realized all of these other interests that I had for presenting music could be done in other ways: sound installation, sculpture, video, and working with dancers and performance artists.”
“From chamber music to art installations and from experimental noise to sacred rites, Raven bridges human connections and gives presence to those without platforms: He has dedicated a portion of his practice to uplifting emerging Indigenous artists,” said CalArts President Ravi Rajan. “Raven is the embodiment of CalArts’ mission—using his multidisciplinary and multifaceted artistic practice to transform the world.”
Watch the MacArthur Foundation video below with Chacon as he discusses his work and art practice.
Since 1981, more than 1,000 people have been named MacArthur Fellows, selected by three criteria:
- Exceptional creativity
- Promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments
- Potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
Joining Chacon in the 2023 MacArthur Fellows class include pianist and composer Courtney Bryan, a 2018 recipient of The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; multidisciplinary artist Dyani White Hawk; and fiction writer Manuel Muñoz.