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3 Chicagoans, including an architect, a jazz cellist and a sociologist are 2022 MacArthur 'genius' grant winners

Meet Amanda Williams; artist, architect, and MacArthur "Genius" Grant winner
Meet Amanda Williams; artist, architect, and MacArthur "Genius" Grant winner 03:04

CHICAGO (CBS/AP) -- Out of the 25 winners of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's prestigious fellowships known as "genius grants" are three from Chicago.

They include a sociologist exploring the effects mass incarceration, a jazz cellist focusing on improvisation techniques and an architect examining disinvestment and urban development.

All the winners get $800,000 over five years with no strings attached. 

Reuben Jonathan Miller, Sociologist, Criminologist, and Social Worker, 2022 MacArthur Fellow, Chicago, IL McArthur Foundation

Reuben Jonathan Miller, 46, is a University of Chicago sociologist, criminologist and social worker who examines the consequences of incarceration, incorporating his personal experiences as a chaplain and relative of imprisoned people. His book Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration goes into time as a volunteer chaplain at the Cook County Jail and "his experiences with the carceral entanglements of his brother and father." 

"History isn't linear. Time passes, but we don't move from one victory to another until we get closer to some version of the truth or some great new world where our problems have disappeared," Miller said. "Our struggle is about making a world in which everyone belongs, even the people we've learned to be afraid of."

Tomeka Reid, Jazz Cellist and Composer, 2022 MacArthur Fellow, Chicago, IL McArthur Foundation

Forty-four-year-old Tomeka Reid is a Chicago jazz cellist and composer whose work draws on her community and forges unique combinations of instruments to reimagine classic works and expand the expressive possibilities of cello improvisation. Reid received an MM degree from DePaul University in 2002 and a DMA degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She's performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival. 

Reid founded the Chicago Jazz String Summit in 2013. It's an annual event celebrating stringed instruments and their "unique contributions to the improvisational jazz sphere." The even features performances, master classes and workshops.

According to the McArthur Foundation "Reid fosters an atmosphere of exchange and experimentation among an international group of attendees. The event cultivates new audiences and offers support for up-and-coming musicians. Reid is honoring jazz's past while driving the field forward and expanding the expressive possibilities of the cello in improvised music."

Amanda Williams, Artist and Architect, 2022 MacArthur Fellow, Chicago, IL McArthur Foundation

Amanda Williams is the 48-year-old Chicago artist and architect whose work explores the intersection of race and the built environment and invites the participation of the community in reimagining their space. In 2014, she and a group of friends pained a number of houses in Englewood set to be demolished. The project was called Color(ed) Theory (2014–2015) and according to the McArthur Foundation:

"They painted each structure in one vibrant color with cultural associations immediately apparent to the neighborhood's predominantly Black residents: Harold's Chicken Shack red, Ultrasheen conditioner blue, Safe Passage yellow. In so doing, Williams created bold visualizations of community life in the neighborhood, despite the neglect and disinvestment that contributed to the structures' deterioration. The series also poses questions about how economic, cultural, and aesthetic value of an object or community is determined."

Her artwork has been displayed at the Museum of Contemporary art in Chicago; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York; and the Venice Architecture Biennale, in Venice, Italy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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