On Wednesday, graphic novelist, cartoonist, and educator Lynda Barry was named a winner of the 2019 MacArthur Genius Grant fellowship. Barry is one of 26 recipients and is joined by a diverse spectrum of thinkers and creators including philosophers, attorneys, geochemists, artists, scholars and more. Per NPR, the award recognizes and supports people in disciplines that aren’t as lucrative as, for example, professional athletes. Winners of the award are granted a $625,000 stipend, which is given out quarterly over five years; it’s a level of stability that helps these outstanding folks continue doing their good work.

Here at The Beat, it’s especially exciting to see Barry as one of those winners. Not only is she an inspirational creator on her own – she’s made a career out of helping ordinary people understand the magic of making their own comics. As an associate professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Barry instructs programs that connect students to their youthful creativity and, in her words, the “misery that graduate students have about being in university.”

Her comics have a similar focus. Barry says they concern the events in characters’ childhoods that shape them into the people they are as adults. Her work at Drawn & Quarterly includes Making Comics, The Good Times are Killing Me, One! Hundred! Demons! and much, much more, given that she’s been drawing and writing her own stories for decades.

Barry is awarded the Genius Grant because of her work “inspiring creative engagement through original graphic works and a teaching practice centered on the role of image making in communication.” For more on MacArthur Genius Grant winner Lynda Barry, check out the video below. For a full list of winners, scroll down to the list below.

Elizabeth Anderson, 59, philosopher

Sujatha Baliga, 48, attorney and restorative justice practitioner

Lynda Barry, 63, graphic novelist, cartoonist and educator

Mel Chin, 67, artist

Danielle Citron, 50, legal scholar

Lisa Daugaard, 53, criminal justice reformer

Annie Dorsen, 45, theater artist

Andrea Dutton, 46, geochemist and paleoclimatologist

Jeffrey Gibson, 47, visual artist

Mary Halvorson, 38, guitarist and composer

Saidiya Hartman, 58, literary scholar and cultural historian

Walter Hood, 61, landscape and public artist

Stacy Jupiter, 43, marine scientist

Zachary Lippman, 41, plant biologist

Valeria Luiselli, 36, writer

Kelly Lytle Hernández, 45, historian

Sarah Michelson, 55, choreographer

Jeffrey Alan Miller, 35, literary scholar

Jerry X. Mitrovica, 58, theoretical geophysicist

Emmanuel Pratt, 42, urban designer

Cameron Rowland, 30, artist

Vanessa Ruta, 45, neuroscientist

Joshua Tenenbaum, 47, cognitive scientist

Jenny Tung, 37, evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist

Ocean Vuong, 30, poet and fiction writer

Emily Wilson, 47, classicist and translator


  1. I am guessing that the total number of cartoonists and of artists and writers of graphic novels (as well as creators of novels and non-fiction having some connection to the community) is relatively small. So it is impressive that previous MacArthur fellows include Alison Bechdel, Jay Cantor, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ben Katchor, Jonathan Lethem, Gene Luen Yang, David Macaulay, Lauren Redniss, and Colson Whitehead.

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