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Another “Genius” in the Hunter College Family: Julie Ault ’95 Named a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow

For the fourth straight year, a member of the Hunter College community has won the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Artist and curator Julie Ault, who earned a BA in art history and political science in 1995, was one of just 25 people selected for the award, which recognizes “exceptional creativity” in a wide range of fields. Winners of the fellowship, commonly known the “Genius Grant,” receive $625,000 to pursue their artistic, social and intellectual passions. Ault joins Hunter College Campus Schools alumnus Lin-Manuel Miranda (HCES ’91 and HCHS ’98) who won in 2015, as well as Hunter faculty members and playwrights Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins and Annie Baker, who won in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

After graduating from Hunter College, Ault earned her PhD from Sweden’s Malmo Art Academy of Lund University. She returned to Hunter in 2014 as part of the Judith Zabar Visiting Artist program, which brings internationally recognized artists to campus to work directly with students in Hunter’s MFA program. Zabar Visiting Artists also present public lectures where they discuss their work and engage in conversation with members of Hunter’s faculty, the broader student community and the general public. The program was launched as part of Hunter’s commitment to serving as a great public college for the arts – a commitment that is reflected in its award-winning arts faculty and alumni.

“Julie Ault is an exceptionally versatile artist whose work transcends conventional boundaries to encompass creation, curation and scholarship,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. “It is no surprise that her extraordinary talents were recognized by the MacArthur Foundation, and we congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.”

In announcing Ault’s prize, the MacArthur Foundation cited her achievements in “activating and preserving art’s capacity to effect social change” as well as her unusually expansive approach to art-making, which involves exhibition-making, art criticism and theory.

“To me, being an artist is a way of thinking and a creative outlet that is with me all the time – I don't turn it on or off, it just is,” said Ault in her Macarthur Foundation video. “I don't make objects, I make exhibitions...My practice [involves] diving in, being informed by memory, the search for soulfulness and political consciousness.”

Ault was a co-founder and member of the pioneering art collective Group Material from 1979 to 1996. Known for its collaborative approach to making and presenting art, Group Material created a new model for the role of artist. In 1989, when political agendas blocked efforts to fully inform the public about the AIDS crisis, Group Material’s AIDS Timeline stepped into the breach with an exhibition that included works of art alongside public health statistics, policy information and media coverage of the crisis. More recently, Ault’s curatorial work and published writing have explored the history of activism in art. Her work has been exhibited at the Sao Paulo and Whitney Biennials, and she has taught at UCLA, Portland State University, the Rhode Island College of Design, the Cooper Union and the California College of the Arts.

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