Tucson Spotlight

MOCA Local Genius Awardees

View more articles in Press Releases


 Local Genius Logo 


Administrative office: 265 South Church Avenue Tucson, Arizona 85701
public information phone 520.624.5019
Media Contact: Anne-Marie Russell
direct office phone: 520.624.6873 or 520.882.2003


MOCA Announces

MOCA Local Genius Awardees

celebrating Tucson's contribution to global excellence

1 December (Tucson, Arizona)- The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is pleased to announce that architect Rick Joy, evolutionary biologist Dr. Anna Dornhaus, ecologist Dr. Gary Nabhan, bioanthropologist Dr. Peter Warshall and legal scholar Robert A. Williams, Jr. are the recipients of the 3rd biennial MOCA Local Genius Award.

The MOCA Local Genius Award honors those visionary and innovative Tucsonans whose activities have a global impact, and whose talents have been internationally recognized. The Awards are a testament to the rich intellectual diversity of Tucson and a reflection of MOCA's commitment to honoring cutting-edge creativity in all disciplines and practices.

The Awards are inspired by the ancient Roman concept of genius loci, or "the spirit of place", the unique sensibility that sets a place apart from others. What is Tucson's genius loci? A radical landscape that both challenges and awes, magical light that inspires, endless vistas that remind us of the grand passage of time and a complex history and heritage that provides a rich diversity of thought and sensibility. Only in Tucson could such a diversity of genius flourish - genius characterized by innovation and creativity, a passionate commitment to one's pursuits, and to pursuits beyond oneself. Each of the Local Geniuses are unique contributors to their respective fields and are both a product of and a contributor to Tucson's unique genius loci.

The contributions of these visionaries to the economic, cultural, and social wellbeing of Tucson and the world will be celebrated throughout the Spring of 2013 with a series of Local Genius Award events at MOCA in downtown Tucson, 265 South Church, and at the MOCA Local Genius Award Gala on 12 April 2013.

About MOCA
MOCA inspires new ways of thinking through the cultivation, interpretation and exhibition of cutting edge art of our time. Since launching as a museum in 2003, MOCA has been recognized internationally for its cutting edge programming by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Etant Donnés/FACE, and in publications such as Travel & Leisure, Architectural Record, and Art US. MOCA is committed to thinking globally, acting locally and engaging with the ethics and aesthetics of contemporary life. MOCA is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and its members and corporate partners.

2013 MOCA Local Genius Awardees
Rick Joy Architect Rick Joy is globally renowned for his innovative use of local natural and cultural materials that speak of indigenous and folk traditions and are exquisitely deployed through Joy's poetic built environments. As Principal of Rick Joy Architects, his work has won numerous global awards and critical recognition, bringing attention to Tucson's unique regional desert modernism. He is the recipient of the 2002 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture and in 2004 won the prestigious National Design Award from the Smithsonian Institution/Cooper-Hewitt. His monograph, Rick Joy: Desert Works, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2002. In addition to his practice, Joy teaches at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and M.I.T. as well as lecturing extensively around the world.

Dr. Gary Nabhan Gary Paul Nabhan is an internationally-celebrated nature writer, seed saver, conservation biologist and sustainable agriculture activist who has been called "the father of the local food movement" by Utne Reader, Mother Earth News, Carleton College and Unity College. Gary is also an orchard-keeper, wild forager and Ecumenical Franciscan brother in his hometown of Patagonia, Arizona near the Mexican border. He is author or editor of twenty-four books, some of which have been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, Croation, Korean, Chinese and Japanese. For his writing and collaborative conservation work, he has been honored with a MacArthur "genius" award, a Southwest Book Award, the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, the Vavilov Medal, and lifetime achievement awards from the Quivira Coalition and Society for Ethnobiology. He works as most of the year as a research scientist at the Southwest Center of the University of Arizona, and the rest as co-founder-facilitator of several food and farming alliances, including Renewing America's Food Traditions and Flavors Without Borders.

Dr. Anna Dornhaus Evolutionary Biologist Anna Dornhaus' research has overturned conventional thinking with regard to animal social behavior and labor division, communication and resource allocation. She is Associate Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology University of Arizona and holds a PhD in Zoology from the University of Wurzburg and her research has been published extensively in peer-reviewed journals as well as featured in popular media such as the New York Times. Her pioneering work in model systems has significant implications for computer scientists and engineers in need of related algorithms furthering the post-disciplinary implications of zoology. As model systems, she studies social insect colonies (bumble bees, honey bees and ants) in the laboratory and in the field, as well as using mathematical and individual-based modeling approaches. Her recent work has included the role of communication in the allocation of foragers to food sources; the evolution of different recruitment systems in different species of bees, and how ecology shapes these recruitment systems; house hunting strategies in ants; speed-accuracy trade offs in decisionmaking; and whether different group sizes necessitate different organizational strategies.

Robert A. Williams Legal scholar and judge pro tem Tohono O'Oodham Nation, Williams specializes in indigenous legal systems, post-colonialism and critical race theory. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Savage Anxieties: The Invention of Western Civilization. Savage Anxieties radically undermines conventional thinking in the global discourse of human rights and reimagines a sense of global social justice. An enrolled member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina, Professor Williams was named the first Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School (2003-2004), having previously served there as Bennet Boskey Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of Law. The 2006 recipient of the University of Arizona Henry and Phyllis Koffler Prize for Outstanding Accomplishments in Public Service, Professor Williams is the founding Director of the IPLP Program at the Rogers School of law. He has received major grants and awards from the Soros Senior Justice Fellowship Program of the Open Society Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the National Institute of Justice. He has represented tribal groups before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, and served as co-counsel for Floyd Hicks in the United States Supreme Court case, Nevada v. Hicks (2001 term). Professor Williams has served as Chief Justice for the Court of Appeals, Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation. Professor Williams was named one of 2011's "Heroes on the Hill" by Indian Country Today for his work on behalf of the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group before the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Peter Warshall, Ph.D. Peter Warshall is an ecologist, activist and essayist whose work centers on conservation and conservation-based development. After receiving his A.B. in Biology from Harvard in 1964, he went on to study cultural anthropology at l'École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris with Claude Lévi-Strauss, as a Fulbright Scholar. He then returned to Harvard where he earned his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology. Currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Tropical Research/Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, and Science Coordinator for the Northern Jaguar Project, Warshall is a world-renowned water steward, biodiversity and wildlife specialist, research scientist, conservationist, and environmental activist. His multi-faceted areas of expertise include natural history, natural resource management, conservation biology, environmental impact analysis, conflict resolution, and consensusbuilding between divergent interest groups. He also edited the legendary, highly influential publication Whole Earth, from 1996 till it ceased publication, and is the Co-Project Director of Bioneers' Dreaming New Mexico initiative.


2011 Local Genius Awardees

Dr. Diana Liverman Diana Liverman is the co-director of the Institute of the Environment at The University of Arizona and a professor in the School of Geography and Development. She is also affiliated with Oxford University where she is a visiting professor of Environmental Policy and Development in the School of Geography and Environment, a fellow of Linacre College, and a fellow in the Environmental Change Institute. Her main research interests focus on climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and climate policy and mitigation, especially in the developing world. In 2010 she was awarded the Founders Gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society for her contributions to understanding the human dimensions of environmental change. She is the chair of the scientific advisory committee international Global Environmental Change and Food Systems (GECAFS) program and editor of the Annual Review of Environment and Resources.

Calexico (Joey Burns, John Convertino & Jacob Valenzuela) Calexico is a diverse collective based around guitarist/vocalist Joey Burns, drummer John Convertino, and trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela. The band has been cited as a melting pot for country, indie rock, various Spanish rooted sub-genres, and jazz, among other musical styles. Calexico has released six full-length albums, six original material tour albums, five EPs, and a live DVD. Naming themselves after a town near the California/Mexico border in honor of this cultural mélange, they have spent the eighteen years since they met in Los Angeles mapping outmusical territory that had otherwise been neglected or at the very least considered the preserve of historians. Their efforts have helped define the Tucson scene in the global arena of music.

Jane Poynter & Taber MacCallum Poynter & MacCallum were original crewmembers of Biosphere 2. Employing ideas developed during their deployment, they have since pioneered technologies for extreme environments through their company, Paragon Space Development. They hold numerous patents, and most notably co-designed the Autonomous Biological System, a long duration plant and aquatic animal life support system. Ms. Poynter is a noted expert in carbon credits and developed ground truth methodologies for carbon credit training. She is the author of Champions for Change and a globally renowned environmental educator. Mr. MacCallumʼs expertise as both a practitioner and researcher of extreme environments has led him around the world and deep into the sea collecting water samples, reintroducing dolphins into wild and salvaging ships. Currently he is involved in the design of a novel Mars space suit portable life support system technology funded by NASA, life support and thermal control systems for commercial manned orbital and suborbital spacecraft, as well as hazardous environment life support technology for U.S. Navy divers, in which he is the test diver.

Leslie Marmon Silko Leslie Marmon Silko broke onto the world literary scene with her 1977 novel Ceremony, which has subsequently entered the canon and brought her into the literary movement known as the Native American Renaissance. Of Laguna, Mexican and Anglo heritage, Silko writes often of identity politics and the challenges of maintaining multiple authenticities. She was the youngest writer to be included in The Norton Anthology of Womenʼs literature. Silko was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant in 1981, which allowed her to produce an epic story of the Americas from the site of the Southwest, Almanac of the Dead. Hers is a powerful voice, speaking truth to power and continuously advocating for language free of co-option from patriarchal and colonial traditions. Her latest book, The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir blends memoir and family history. Drawing from Native storytelling practices, Silko takes her reader on a series of journeys through the Sonoran Desert, as she walks, remembers and contemplates the landscape and human beings ancient practice of connecting place to identity, using the land to tell our stories.

Janos Wilder James Beard Foundation award-winning chef, restaurateur and slow food advocate Janos Wilder has been delighting and surprising palates in the Southwest for over two decades. His innovative mining of world culinary traditions, combined with his commitment to the local community, results in a unique cuisine that reflects the extraordinary diversity and heritage of Tucson. Janosʼ rigorous creativity relentless and pursuit of excellence have placed him at the forefront of culinary and cultural trends around the world. Using Tucsonʼs richhistory as the oldest continuously inhabited place in the continental United States, Janos sees our community as a metaphor for global trends in human migration. He tells this story through his innovative cuisine and thus raises awareness about the relationship between food and human development.

2009 Local Genius Awardees

Byrd Baylor Prolific three-time Caldecott Medal honored author of children's books, Baylor is also a former NPR correspondent and internationally noted naturalist and border humanitarian based in Arivaca and Tucson. Known not only for the graceful elegance of her words and keen sensibility of the desert southwest, Baylor's prolific output as an author has spanned nearly five decades and included the publication of nearly 30 fiction and non-fiction books each exploring the common humanity in all of us. From Amigo (1963) and Everybody Needs a Rock (1974) to The Table Where Rich People Sit (1994) and And It Is Still That Way: Legends Told by Arizona Indian Children (1998), her books are classic in the best sense of the word.

Sherwin Bitsui Internationally recognized award-winning poet (2006 Whiting Prize for Emerging Authors for Shapeshift from the University of Arizona Press, 2005 Lannan Foundation Marfa Residency Fellow, 2001 Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, 1999 Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship), Bitsui is based in Tucson but grew up in White Cone, Arizona, part of the Navajo Nation (he is Dine of the Todich'ii'nii - Bitter Water Clan - born for the Tl'izilani - Many Goats Clan). He holds an AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts Creative Writing Program.

Robert Colescott The first African-American artist to represent the U.S. in a single-artist exhibition at the Venice Biennale (1997), Colescott studied with Fernand Leger in Paris (1949-50) and is represented in numerous public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, as well as many private collections. Colescott was the Regents' Professor of Art at the University of Arizona until his retirement in 1995.

Suzana Dávila Owner/head chef of Café Poca Cosa in downtown Tucson, Davila is a globally noted culinary leader in innovative cross-cultural cuisine as well as a US-Mexico humanitarian philanthropist for women and children. A native of Sonora, Mexico, Dávila opened the original Café Poca Cosa over 20 years ago. Balancing her responsibilities between chef and single mother of two, Dávila created a cult-like following that recognized her innovative cooking and dynamic personality. Today, Cafe Poca Cosa's dynamic character exudes a fusion of eclectic modern decor and ambiance melded with traditional cooking styles and flavors. The restaurant has been featured in local, national, and international publications such as Gourmet, Tucson Lifestyle, The New York Times, and Great Chefs and their Kitchens.

Howe Gelb Prolific internationally acclaimed musician/songwriter who, with the late Rainer Ptacek, is largely responsible for the incubation of a creatively viable Tucson contemporary music "scene," over the last 25 years Gelb's numerous collaborations with others have put Tucson on the international map as a center of unique contemporary music and songwriting and paved the way for the international success of other Tucson-based bands.

Peter Smith Longtime Tucsonan, Principal Investigator of the NASA Phoenix Mars Scout Mission, Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona. Smith's innovative camera designs and engagement with Mars over the last fifteen years have produced compelling images and unique data of the Red Planet. Phoenix, the current mission, is focused on locating evidence of liquid water, and thus evidence of life on Mars.

# # #