MacArthur’s fellowship for Jacqueline Stewart of the Academy Museum

It’s been a big week for Jacqueline Stewart, artistic head and program officer of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures: Not only will she see the museum open its doors to the public, but on Tuesday morning Stewart was named as a 2021 MacArthur Fellow – an honor that came out of the blue, he said.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognized the film scholar, archivist and curator for “ensuring that the contributions of ignored Black filmmakers and communities of viewers have a place in the public imagination.”

“It’s a tremendous honor, and I have the highest respect and admiration for the people who have received it over the years, some of my true heroes,” Stewart said in an interview, citing photo historian Deborah Willis , art historian and curator Kellie Jones and photographer Dawoud Bey.

Stewart, 51, found out about the award – which contained $ 625,000 Giving “genius” to allow fellow freedoms to pursue creative projects – in late August while waiting for an Uber outside the apartment he recently moved in after moving from Chicago. He thought the unknown phone number repeatedly appearing on his screen was a telemarketer.

When, at last, Stewart responded and the foundation delivered the good news, he was shocked.

“I kept quiet and started crying,” Stewart said. “My ex -husband said: ‘You’re a MacArthur genius!’ He says for years that it will happen and I don’t believe him. It’s in the category of: ‘I don’t dare dream.’ ”

Once Stewart regained his composure, a representative began reading his career biography to him, like protocol. It was a very hot summer day, as he remembers, and Stewart closed his eyes, the sun was shining on his shoulders, and he was just listening.

“It’s really moving,” he said. “I want my work to be effective and make a difference in the world. It’s an incredible feeling to listen to and really, really other people are taking my work.”

But the celebrations have been decided to stop for now, Stewart said.

“I’m really focused on, and consumed with, opening the Academy Museum – that lasts all my time,” he said. “But [the award], a confirmation that I am on the right path. Taking on this project was a big step for me, who have pursued an academic career and are now moving into this museum world. “

Stewart’s body of work, the MacArthur Foundation said in its announcement, “fills critical gaps in the history of American media.”

In simple words: he’s trying to make the history of the film more inclusive.

Towards that end, Stewart’s work became scholarly and intended to a wide audience. Prior to joining the Academy Museum, he taught American film history at the University of Chicago, where he is currently on vacation. He is the author of the 2005 study “The Migration to Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity,” in which the MacArthur Foundation said it “painted a color picture of the Black silent screen viewer in Chicago at the time of the Great Migration.” And he put together the preservation project series “LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” which debuted at UCLA in 2009 as part of the Pacific Standard Time festival. It ended with a book he co-edited.

At the more public-facing end of the spectrum, Stewart hosts the Turner Classic Movies network’s “Silent Sunday Nights” series. He was the first Black cable network host, discussing the cultural and historical context of silent films. Stewart’s film preservation project, the South Side Home Movie Project, which he launched in 2005 in Chicago – his hometown – captures and displays home films from the 1920s to the 1980s to illustrate how to document South Side residents take their own lives and challenge the way the mainstream media represents the neighborhood as a dangerous place.

“My ex -husband said: ‘You’re a MacArthur genius!’ He’s been saying it’s going to happen for years and I don’t believe him, “Jacqueline Stewart said.” It’s in the category of: ‘I don’t dare to dream.’ “

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

At the Academy Museum, Stewart oversees exhibitions, programs and education, essentially guiding the museum’s “intellectual agenda,” as he told The Times. He aims to draw his research, teaching and archiving work to date and “three-dimensionalize” it in the museum in this exciting, unpredictable program.

The MacArthur award doesn’t necessarily shape his work at the Academy Museum, he said, as much as it proves.

“The main part of the work I do at the museum is with the curatorial team and really emphasizes the importance of in -depth research and really careful description of film history and filmmaking processes,” he said. “And to me, what I hope this is, honestly, a way of validating on the Academy Museum side, that it will help people see the intellectual excellence of this museum.”

This year’s 25 MacArthur Fellows – 12 of them are women and 13 of them are men – age range from 32 to 70 and represents the fields of arts, education, science, media and technology, law and environmental studies. Eleven are Black, six are Latinx and one is Asian American. They come from around the US, Puerto Rico and Germany.

Four of the fellows, including Stewart, are based in Southern California. Digital media scholar Safiya Noble, 51, an associate professor of gender studies and the African American studies department at UCLA, was recognized for “highlighting the ways in which digital technology and internet architecture are racism, sexism, and dangerous stereotypes, ”the MacArthur Foundation said.

Two Pasadena filmmakers, Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera, would have known each other for individual bodies of work, but they got married – a first for the foundation.

Ibarra, a 49-year-old filmmaker, is recognized for “producing nuanced narratives about borderland communities, often from the perspective of Chicana and Latina youth.” Rivera, a 48-year-old filmmaker and media artist, received his award for exploration of migration, globalization and technology.

Stewart has no plans for his MacArthur stipend yet – but the space for the unknown is new and feels welcome, he said.

“One of the things I like about this recognition is I don’t have to have a plan right now,” he said. “It’s a fellowship where you can use resources when and however you want – and it’s incredibly liberating. Because as scholars, we don’t get the luxury of time.”

That the MacArthur award will come just two days before the Academy Museum opens its doors is pretty overwhelming, Stewart said, but it’s also a moment of reflection.

“I didn’t feel like I had done anything on my own, so it was really a moment of recognition of the incredible support I have always had from my family and friends and colleagues. It was an occasion to express my thank you. ”

Stewart was a bit choked and paused the interview before continuing.

“My career has been on a fast track from the start,” he said. “From the ramp to getting a PhD to trying to get a tenure and be promoted and published, administrative things I’ve been invited to do-it’s very intense. And it feels like a moment to stop and show myself some greetings, which I never did. “

Today: until the opening of a museum.

The full list of 2021 MacArthur Fellows

Hanif Abdurraqib Columbus, music critic, essayist and poet

Daniel Alarcón, writer and radio producer

Marcella Alsan, physician-economist

Trevor Bedford, computational virologist

Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet and lawyer

Jordan Casteel, painter

Don Mee Choi, poet and translator

Ibrahim Cissé, biological physicist

Nicole Fleetwood, art historian and curator

Cristina Ibarra, documentary filmmaker

Ibram X. Candy, American historian and writer

Daniel Lind-Ramos, sculptor and painter

Monica Muñoz Martinez, public historian

Desmond Meade, civil rights activist

Joshua Miele, designer of fitting technology

Michelle Monje, neuroscientist and neuro-oncologist

Safiya Noble, scholar in digital media and internet studies

Taylor Perron, geomorphologist

Alex Rivera, filmmaker and media artist

Lisa Schulte Moore, landscape ecologist

Jesse Shapiro, applied microeconomist

Jacqueline Stewart, film scholar, archivist and curator

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, historian and writer

Victor J. Torres, microbiologist

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, choreographer and dance entrepreneur

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