The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship honor exceptionally talented creatives from a wide range of fields each year. The foundation has selected 25 stars this year, including violinist Vijay Gupta and community organizer Raj Jayadev.

Gupta is a 31-year-old violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Gupta is more than just a musician, he is a social activist who brings music to Skid Row, a poverty-stricken area of Los Angeles. He has brought together musicians in his street symphony to bring light to this neighborhood.

Gupta believes it is an artist’s job to heal, inspire and be the “truth-tellers” of their time which is reflected in his work.

Jayadev is a 43-year-old community organizer from San Jose, California. Jayadev developed a grassroots organization that allows individuals facing incarceration as well as their families and communities to build a better defense for themselves. Along with his group, he works with public defenders who educate and help these individuals play a more active role in their defense.

His model has led to organizations across the country in 21 cities in states across the nation including Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

Each year the foundation selects 20-30 candidates each year to receive their “genius” grants which provide these outstanding individuals with $625,000 distributed over 5 years. The intention is to assist these winners in their exceptional work, some of their most influential winners include playwright and theater actor Lin-Manuel Miranda as well as author and journalist David Simon.

We look forward to seeing more of Gupta and Jayadev and their contributions to the society, especially after these big wins.

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