Herb Alpert Award in the Arts Celebrates 25 Years

The Herb Alpert Foundation celebrated the 25th year of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (HAAIA), which was awarded to five artists on Monday, May 13, in New York City.

The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts has been administered by CalArts since 1994. The award annually recognizes five artists pushing the boundaries of Dance, Film/Video, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts, and grants an unrestricted prize of $75,000. This year’s ceremony celebrates a total of 125 recipients.

Typically held at the Herb Alpert Foundation in Santa Monica, the 2019 award ceremony took place at the Caldwell Factory in Manhattan. The evening featured tributes by Vijay Iyer and George Lewis, both past honorees, and veteran broadcast journalist Bill Moyers. CalArts President Ravi Rajan was also in attendance.

This year’s recipients are Meshell Ndegeocello (Music), Cecilia Vicuña (Visual Arts), Pam Tanowitz (Dance), Lloyd Suh (Theatre) and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (Film/Video). The artists will undertake a residency during CalArts’ upcoming academic year as visiting artists

Composer and musician Meshell Ndegeocello expertly glides between rock, funk, jazz, R&B, hip hop and spoken word. A prolific collaborator known for opening space in sound and gender presentation, Ndegeocello investigates and harnesses the transformative power of art in the community.

Cecilia Vicuña transmogrifies visual arts and oral poetry into an abstract, spiritual experience that draws from her ancestral past and looks to the future. The artist-poet’s childhood, upended by the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, has informed much of her politically tinged art, which addresses socioeconomic disparities and ecological destruction.

Pam Tanowitz’s choreography adapts conventions of classical ballet and modern dance into a singular showcase of the human body and movement. Tanowitz’s propensity to “lift the curtain” during performances redefines the illusion of the stage, as well as the relationship between performers and the audience.

Playwright Lloyd Suh throws previously ignored points in Asian American history into sharp relief with a catalog ranging from sci-fi plays to punk rock musicals. The New York City-based artist advocates a community-centric, collaborative theater experience and serves as a mentor to many up-and-coming Asian American writers.

San Juan-based artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz's film and video works draw from Boalian theater, and manifest in everything from ethnography to freestyle dance to psychoanalytical sessions. Armed with an improvisatory ethos and a knack for juxtaposing images, Santiago Muñoz’s dreamlike works allow audiences to consider a decolonized Caribbean, as well as new paradigms of representation and seeing—both literally and metaphorically.

“Herb Alpert had a hunch that a prize to artists—artists who took risks—could make a difference to artists, certainly, and maybe even in the world,” said Director of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts Irene Borger. “He said: ‘what if?’ – the core of creativity. The artists the Herb Alpert Award honors and supports not only ‘think outside the box,’ they think: ‘what box?’”

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