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N.C. A&T Alumnus, Walter Hood Awarded the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant”

09/25/2019 Alumni, College of Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 25, 2019) – The MacArthur Foundation announced today that Walter Hood ’81, founder and creative director of Hood Design Studio, a landscape architecture firm based in Oakland, California is a 2019 recipient of the “Genius Grant.” The $625,000 award is administered by the MacArthur Fellowship program that is paid out over a five year span, with no strings attached. The grant is given to extraordinary, talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential.

“I found out a month ago that I was getting the “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation and I honestly thought it was a prank,” said Hood. “However, I soon learned it was a serious opportunity and I was floored at the details. It was like a gift from the Gods that rained down upon my life.”

According to the MacArthur Foundation website, Hood was among 26 fellows in the arts, science, law, social justice, education and other areas announced Wednesday morning by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He was recognized for creating ecologically sustainable urban spaces that resonate with and enrich the lives of current residents while also honoring communal histories.

“As an artist, this is an opportunity you want to undertake because you do not have to stress about where the funding is coming from. This grant gives me the freedom to do the work I desire without the critique,” said Hood.

With more than 37 years in landscape architecture, Hood is known in his industry as the “Community Whisperer,” due to his creative process and delivery of work that speaks what the community is trying to say. He uses a subtle approach to new projects with a perspective of being still and quiet during the initial planning stages; this allows him to understand his spaces by listening intently to the history and culture. 

Hood is currently working on the International African American Museum based in Charleston, S.C, where 40 percent of enslaved Africans arrived in the United States. According to the MacArthur Foundation, he is designing a memorial garden for the museum filled with native grasses and featuring a tidal pool whose waters will recede at regular intervals to reveal an engraved pattern of life-sized figures, aligned as though confined within the hold of a slave ship. 

The groundbreaking for the space will take place in October 2019. Details of the project can be viewed on the Hood Design Studio website by clicking here.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with its purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

“This award shows that people appreciate the work and number of years of commitment I’ve given to creating new and innovative spaces,” he said.

Hood is also a full-time professor of landscape architecture, environmental planning and urban design at the University of California Berkeley.

In 1981, Hood received his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina A&T State University, a master’s degree in architecture and landscape architecture from the University of California at Berkley in 1989 and a distinguished master of fine arts from The School of the Arts Institute of Chicago in 2013.