MOCA Tucson Announces 2020 MOCA Local Genius Awardees

(Tucson, Arizona) January 27, 2020 — The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is pleased to announce that the 2020 MOCA Local Genius Awards recipients will be pioneering borderland ecological restorerValer Clark , US Congresswoman and gun safety champion Gabby Giffords , planetary scientist and OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta , and formative immigration activist collective Las Mujeres de Manzo.

The MOCA Local Genius Awards honor those visionary and innovative Tucsonans whose activities have a global impact, and whose talents have been internationally recognized. The Awards were founded by MOCA in 2009 and 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 MOCA 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 well-being of Tucson and the world will be celebrated with a series of Local Genius Awards events and lectures at MOCA in downtown Tucson, 265 South Church Avenue. The awards will be presented at the MOCA Local Genius Awards Gala on April 18 th , 2020. City of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero will present the awards as Honorary Chair of the event and KXCI Executive Director Cathy Rivers will serve as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. Tickets to the gala are available at

2020 MOCA Local Genius Awardees

Valer Clark uses land as her canvas and water as her medium. Through the construction of large gabions and more than 40,000 loose rock dams she has restored waterways thereby transforming expanses of parched, overgrazed desert to permaculture oases. Valer serves on the board of Cuenca Los Ojos (Watershed of Springs), an organization that promotes restoration of habitat, protection of a wildlife corridor along the US/Mexican border, and promotes research and learning in an outdoor laboratory. For her conservation work on both sides of the border, Valer has received many awards including the designation of Mexican Conservation Hero by The Nature Conservancy in 2006, the Wetlands Award by the Environmental Law Institute of Washington, and Reconocimiento a la Conservación de la Naturaleza in 2008.

Gabby Giffords served as a United States Congresswoman representing Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2012. On January 8th, 2011, while meeting publicly with her constituents, Giffords and 18 other people were shot in an assassination attempt that left six people dead, many more in critical condition, and our community in shock. After a courageous and miraculous recovery, she has worked tirelessly as a gun safety advocate, establishing Americans for Responsible Solutions in 2013. The ARS later joined with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to become Giffords, an advocacy and research organization focused on preventing gun violence.

Dante Lauretta is a Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. An expert in asteroid formation and evolution, he is the leader of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. The mission’s goal is to collect, and return back to Earth, a sample from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, which will enable researchers to study the formation and evolution of both the Solar System and the beginnings of life on Earth. Lauretta received the University of Arizona Alumni Achievement Award, the NASA Silver Achievement Medal, and holds two Guinness World Records for placing the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in orbit around Bennu. Asteroid 5819 is named “Lauretta” in recognition of his scientific achievements.

Las Mujeres de Manzo is a formative immigration activist group whose collective efforts have given rise to many of the international human rights activities in our region. Beginning in the 1970s, Guadalupe Castillo, Margo Cowan, Isabel Garcia, and Raquel Rubio Goldsmith came together at the Manzo Area Council, a war on poverty program that President Johnson began, and became known as las Mujeres de Manzo. In the ’80s the group was the lone voice identifying and opposing the militarization of the border. They went on to shape many other humanitarian relief groups including Coalición de Derechos Humanos and No More Deaths, establish and promote Chicano and Mexican-American Studies programs as researchers and educators, and work for decades in legal defense.

Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, 265 South Church Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85701, 520.624.5019,

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