MacArthur Genius Dawoud Bey 2017

The MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ is an annual grant of $625,000 given with no strings attached, paid over five years.

It’s not just for anyone — the MacArthur fellows are people the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation determines “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

The grant winners range from landscape architects reviving cities, to community leaders taking on poverty in urban communities, to conceptual artists revealing the extent of modern day surveillance.

Below, find nine of the most fascinating people and projects that won this year’s grants, and see the full list of recipients at the MacArthur Foundation website.

SEE ALSO: These entrepreneurs are leading 8 of the fastest-growing new retailers in the world — and now Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss will help

Jason De León shines a light on the effects of American immigration policy.

Age: 40

City: Ann Arbor, Michigan

The MacArthur foundation says:

“Jason De León is an anthropologist whose multidisciplinary approach to the study of migration from Latin America to the United States is bringing to light the lives and deaths of clandestine migrants crossing the U.S.–Mexico border into the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. He combines ethnographic analysis of migrant stories, forensic science, and archaeological research in his efforts to understand this process—who makes the journey, the routes, the means of survival and manner of death—and the human consequences of immigration policy.”

Read more about De Leon’s work »

Kate Orf transforms cities into sustainable systems that work with the planet, not against it.

Age: 45

City: New York, New York

The MacArthur Foundation says:

“Kate Orff is a landscape architect envisioning new forms of public space that reveal and revive the hidden ecological systems underlying our built environments and encourage urban residents to become active stewards of their natural surroundings. Her research and design practice addresses the challenges posed by urbanization and climate change (such as biodiversity loss and rising sea levels) through in-depth collaborations with ecologists, engineers, educators, artists, and community members that aim to make our urban habitats more adaptive and resilient.”

Read more about Orff’s work »

Trevor Paglen examines what privacy means in a time when Big Brother is always watching.

Age: 43

City: Berlin, Germany

The MacArthur Foundation says:

“Trevor Paglen is a conceptual artist and geographer making the invisible operations of military and corporate power visible to everyday citizens. He draws on his training as a geographer and utilizes the tools of image-making, coupled with painstaking review of public records and declassified documents, to explore infrastructures of warfare, surveillance, and social control that are generally hidden from the general public. The resulting images, sculptural works, and writings he produces examine the ways that human rights are threatened in an era of mass surveillance and data collection.”

Read more about Paglen’s work »

See the rest of the story at Business Insider