Boundary-pushing multimedia artist Carolyn Lazard, 36, and Opera Philadelphia’s composer-in-residence Courtney Bryan, 41, have earned MacArthur “genius” grants, the foundation announced Wednesday. The two are among this year’s cohort of 20 “exceptional, creative, and inspiring people” awarded the prestigious fellowship that comes with an unrestricted grant of $800,000.

Lazard, raised in the Philadelphia area, works out of Philadelphia and New York, and is an artist living with disabilities. Their work challenges ableist expectations and creates surprising, critical installations. One such work was “Long Take,” that was on display earlier this year at the Institute of Contemporary Art. The show invited viewers to experience dance without seeing the dancer — instead, there were three screens playing sounds of a dancer’s movement and displaying audio descriptions.

“We often think of accessibility as a set of strict protocols to be followed and adhered to, but when we need access, or when we facilitate access for others, you start to see that access can produce new aesthetic forms,” Lazard told The Inquirer in March. “Or you could say, it can arrive in a whole variety of flavors. It can be institutional, it can be intimate, it can be ad hoc.”

Lazard has earned multiple recognitions in recent years, from participating in the 2019 Whitney Biennial to receiving a Disability Futures fellowship from the Ford and Mellon Foundations in 2020. They have an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and wrote Accessibility in the Arts: A Promise and a Practice as a guidebook for arts institutions.

Composer and pianist Bryan is primarily based in her hometown of New Orleans, but over the past year has come to Philly for multiple projects as part of Opera Philadelphia’s composer-in-residence program. In 2021, Bryan composed Blessed, a digital commission for the organization that she wrote in response to the protests against police killings of Black people in 2020; the title comes from the Bible verse, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Bryan’s compositions span genres including jazz, gospel, spirituals, and experimental music, with works that have melded sermons and testimonials with classical orchestrations. A music professor at Tulane University, she has been creating a new opera project called Myal about two Black women in colonial Jamaica.

“I am still taking in this awesome and life-changing news,” wrote Bryan, who’s currently in Italy, on her Instagram on Wednesday. “As I get older, I realize how much my original ideas are variations on the work of my parents (and on the work of my family for generations) and so I give thanks and honor…I look forward to exploring how to exercise my creative process in expanded ways. Dream time.”