LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Santa Monica playwright and an American historian who is also a professor at USC have been named MacArthur Fellows.
Larissa FastHorse and Natalia Molina were among the 21 MacArthur Fellows announced Tuesday. The program from the MacArthur Foundation recognizes the extraordinary work of writers, scientists, artists, and scholars.
Besides the honor of being named a MacArthur Fellow, FastHorse and Molina will each receive a $625,000, no-strings-attached award intended to be an investment in their creativity and potential.
“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,” said Cecilia Conrad, managing director of MacArthur Fellows. “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, who began her career as a ballet dancer, is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and the co-founder of Indigenous Direction, which advises on theater and film projects that address native issues. She was honored for “creating space for Indigenous artists, stories and experiences in mainstream theater and countering the misrepresentation and erasure of Indigenous concerns in broader society.”
In a video, 49-year-old FastHorse said she has a unique view of theater as an American Lakota playwright.
“From the beginning of my career, it’s been important to include Indigenous peoples and populations into my work. Creating works that not only tell Indigenous stories and use Indigenous ways of thinking, but they also provide greater access to them to have agency over the way that they’re portrayed,” FastHorse said.
Molina, also 49, is a professor in USC’s Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, has written two books on the history of race in Los Angeles and is at work on two more focusing on the how attitudes, stereotypes and policies of exclusion have impacted the Mexican community. She was honored for “revealing how narratives of racial difference were constructed and applied to immigrant groups a century ago continue to shape national policy today.”
“I was always fascinated by the fact that certain groups were seen as able to assimilate while others were not. Why are some people accepted as American more readily than others?” she asks in a video introducing herself. “If we understand the many historical factors that shaped where we are today, then we have the power to reimagine where we can go from here.”