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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 22, 2009

Timothy Barrett of the UI Center for the Book wins MacArthur 'Genius' grant

Timothy Barrett, research scientist and adjunct professor of papermaking at the University of Iowa Center for the Book, is a 2009 recipient of a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The $500,000 MacArthur Fellowships, popularly known as the "genius grants," are awarded to individuals in a variety of fields who have shown exceptional originality and dedication to their creative pursuits.

The recipients learn of the grants "out of the blue" with a phone call from the foundation. The grants, with no strings attached, support the fellows for five years. MacArthur Fellowships offer the opportunity for fellows to accelerate their current activities or take their work in new directions. The unusual level of independence afforded to fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors.

"People have asked me how it feels to receive this award," Barrett said. "More than the money, I have to say I've been moved by the recognition. I've spent most of my career focused on the history, technique, science and aesthetics of hand papermaking. I've been lucky to be a part of the UI Center for the Book for the last 23 years because, in general, career tracks in my specialty are few and far between. So it is very much to the MacArthur Foundation's credit that they acknowledge creativity in new fields of study, as well as in established disciplines."

Barrett earned a bachelors degree in art communications from Antioch College in 1973 and later spent two years working with Kathryn and Howard Clark at Twinrocker Handmade Paper, Inc.; two years under a Fulbright Fellowship studying papermaking in Japan; and several years researching early European handmade papers.

He joined the UI Center for the Book as its paper specialist in 1986 and served as its director between 1996 and 2002. He continues to teach courses that address the history, technique, science and aesthetics of hand papermaking, and he oversees the Oakdale Paper Production and Research Facility.

He has created several of one-of-a-kind artist's books using handmade paper and leather as the primary materials. His current research is focused on the non-destructive analysis of European paper made between the 14th and the 19th centuries -- a study made possible by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He is also interested in the emerging field of book studies, the impact of the book on society and culture, and the future of the book equivalent.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. In addition to the fellowships, the foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

"For nearly three decades, the MacArthur Fellows Program has highlighted the importance of creativity and risk-taking in addressing pressing needs and challenges around the globe," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. "Through these fellowships, we celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all."

Learn more about the MacArthur Foundation at

The 2009 fellows include former Iowa Writers' Workshop faculty members Deborah Eisenberg and Heather McHugh.

Past UI-connected MacArthur Fellows include writers Sandra Cisneros, Andre Dubus, Stuart Dybek, Patricia Hampl, James Alan McPherson, Jorie Graham, Mark Strand, Robert Hass, Robert Penn Warren, Naomi Wallace and John Edgar Wideman; and anthropological linguist Nora England.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Timothy Barrett, Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,