UWM alum wins MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ award

UWM alum Sky Hopinka has been named a winner of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, commonly known as a “genius grant.”

Hopinka, a filmmaker, video artist, and photographer, received a Master of Fine Arts from UWM in 2016.

Sky Hopinka (UWM Photo)

The MacArthur Foundation citation credits Hopinka, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, with “developing new forms of cinema that center the perspectives of Indigenous people. Hopinka layers imagery, sound, and text to create an innovative cinematic language. His short and feature-length films traverse both Indigenous histories and contemporary experiences.”

In a video produced by the MacArthur Foundation, Hopinka explains his approach to his art.

“I like to work in moving image, written form and photography, and I like to try to find different ways that those practices can intersect one another,” Hopinka said. “So I make experimental films, I make documentary films, I make installation videos, I make photographs, and I like to write poems. What I’m interested in doing is to look at a more circular form of storytelling, or one that doesn’t necessarily have a beginning, middle and an end in the way that we’re accustomed to, living in the culture that we live in right now.”

Hopinka’s work has been shown at numerous film festivals, including Sundance, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Milwaukee Film Festival and the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He has also exhibited work at venues including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Hopinka was awarded a Mary L. Nohl fellowship in 2017 in the emerging artist category.

He is currently an assistant professor in the Film and Electronic Arts Program at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

Those chosen as MacArthur fellows are selected for exceptional creativity, promise for future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and the potential for the fellowship to spur further creative work. Fellows are awarded a stipend of $800,000, paid over five years.

“My first film was a documentary intended to be viewed by an Indigenous audience,” Hopinka said in the MacArthur video. “Having that sense of who an audience is, that was really something that opened up a lot of possibilities to me in figuring out how to tell stories that are not only important to my community, but important to me as an artist, as a filmmaker, as a person, and as a Ho-Chunk person. Once I started really seeing the possibilities of making films outside of more conventional forms, I’ve just been going ever since.”

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