The Closest We'll Get to Winning a "Genius" Award
I just got off the phone with artist Tara Donovan, who–it was just reported today–is the recipient of one of this year’s “genius grants” from the MacArthur Foundation. “Isn’t it kooky news?” she said when I congratulated her on winning. Donovan (whom I interviewed for W’s September issue) was in Boston, “buried in crates,” she explained as she prepared to install her first museum survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art. But she sounded happy. Very happy.
I asked her how she got the news. “I got a phone call last Tuesday from someone at the foundation,” she said, “but missed the call because I was in the bathroom. There was a message saying it was urgent that I call and that I shouldn’t mention it to anyone. I was so panicked and my husband kept saying, “Call them back!” She had to wait 20 long minutes before she finally connected with the caller, who asked her, “Are you sitting down? Are you alone?” When Donovan replied that no, her husband was in the room, she was advised to ask him to leave. “Then they asked me if I’d heard of the MacArthur Foundation. Of course I had. They really drag it out and I kept thinking, Just get to the point!” The caller eventually did–she gets $500,000 over five years–which “gives me a sense of security in a very shaky economy,” said the artist, who just celebrated her first wedding anniversary and moved into a new house in Williamsburg that she designed.
At the end of the call, Donovan was told that the news of her prize was embargoed until this morning–but she admits she couldn’t resist telling her husband and “everyone I know,” she said, laughing. “But don’t tell anyone.”
Photograph by Anna Bauer