Herb Alpert Award in the Arts


Five $75,000 prizes given annually for the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in the categories of Dance, Film/Video, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts. 2020 awardees include Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah for Music and Sky Hopinka for Film/Video.

“I’ve always loved the artists that travel the road less traveled…those are the artists that touch me.”

Herb Alpert

The Herb Alpert Foundation and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) have awarded the 2020 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (HAAIA) to five exceptional mid–career artists. Now in its 26th year, the annual award provides five unrestricted $75,000 grants to independent artists working in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theatre and visual arts. The recipients will be honored at a virtual ceremony hosted by Herb Alpert, his wife Lani Hall Alpert and the Herb Alpert Foundation on Friday, May 22, 2020.



SKY HOPINKA – Film/Video



FIRELEI BAEZ – Visual Arts

The awards are adjudicated by three-member panels of noted artists – including many past winners – and arts professionals in each of the five categories. The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts was conceived by music legend Herb Alpert and his wife, Grammy-winning vocalist Lani Hall Alpert to reward creative experimenters who are challenging and transforming art, their respective disciplines, and society. In addition, the awards provide vital financial support to each artist at a key juncture in his or her creative development.

Among the 125 past winners of the Award are artists – Carrie Mae Weems, Vijay Iyer, Taylor Mac, Arthur Jafa, Suzan-Lori Parks, Julia Wolfe, Meshell Ndegeocello, Michelle Dorrance, Tania Bruguera, Kerry James Marshall, Lisa Kron, Okwui Okpokwasili, Sharon Lockhart, Ralph Lemon, and Cai Guo-Qiang.

“We are grateful to be able to celebrate the Herb Alpert Award’s 26th anniversary during this very challenging year, where more than ever the arts are a vital and necessary way of bringing sustenance, meaning and well-being to our world.

“In recognizing and honoring these five visionary mid-career artists who expand their fields as well as our own horizons, we acknowledge the profound social, cultural and personal impact their work, and the arts overall, has on a civil society…and particularly a civil society in the midst of crisis.”

Rona Sebastian, Herb Alpert Foundation president.

Irene Borger, the founding Director of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts notes, “15 extraordinary artistic directors, curators, educators and Herb Alpert Award winners came together, in 5 separate panels, to ask: ‘why support this artist at this moment in their artistic trajectory – and – right now, in the culture? Their decisions?’ They matter.”

The following summaries highlight why the 2020 panelists chose these five extraordinary artists:


“The Dance panel has selected choreographer Karen Sherman for her genuine, transparent, vulnerable work and the ways she summons the real into existence. They value her sensitivity in grappling with issues of equity and inclusion, and how she poetically and wittily brings forth the unseen, taking risks to create a necessary theatre for this time.”


luciana achugar – choreographer, Herb Alpert Award Artist, Brooklyn, New York

Nan Friedman – performer/teacher/choreographer, Santa Monica, CA

Donna Uchizono – dance artist, Herb Alpert Award Artist, New York


“The Film/Video panel honors artist and filmmaker Sky Hopinka for his remarkable approach to storytelling, at once personal and mythic; for his ability to join the aesthetic and the political, and to engage with questions of ecology and dispossession. They were moved by his visual aesthetic that refuses to objectify people or land, and grounds characters and stories with feeling and soul.”


Rizvana Bradley – assistant professor, History of Art, and African-American Studies, Yale University, New Haven

Bruce Jenkins – professor of Film, Video, New Media and Animation, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

Roya Rastagar – filmmaker and curator, PhD. History of Consciousness, Los Angeles


“The Music panel celebrates trumpeter, composer, producer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah for his originality and artistry, for the inventive ways he decolonizes sound and uses the past to move us forward. His immersive and compelling music makes magic, stretches conventions, has a powerful, visceral impact on listeners, and builds bridges and community.”


Molly Barth – flutist, professor, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Steve Coleman – saxophonist, composer, band leader, Herb Alpert Award Artist, New York, NY – Allentown, PA

Miya Masaoka – composer, sound artist, Herb Alpert Award Artist, associate professor, director, Sound Art Program, Columbia University, New York


“Theatre-maker Phil Soltanoff was chosen by the Theatre panel for his phenomenally, seriously playful and rich imagination, for the masterful ways he conveys story through silence and physicality, as well as for the beauty, elegance, and timelessness of his innovations. They are relieved that he – “the Real Deal with experimentation in his DNA” – is taking his gifts to the next generation throughout America.”


Raelle Myrick Hodges – theater director, creative director, 651 Arts, Brooklyn, New York

Johanna McKeon – director, New York

Diane Rodriguez – director, writer, producer, Rodriguez Projects, Los Angeles


“Artist Firelei Baéz was named the Visual Arts prizewinner for the fearless, subversive beauty of her expansive, color-saturated, highly patterned and ornamented paintings, for the immersive and layered visual and kinesthetic experience of her ambitious room-sized and public installations, which both subtly and rigorously interrogate history, transporting us to a powerful future that embodies an alternate past.”


Ondine Chavoya – professor of art, Williams College, Williamstown, MA

Paul Ha – director, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA

Naima Keith – vice-president, Education and Public Programs, LACMA, Los Angeles

Ravi Rajan, president of CalArts adds, “The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts stands as one of the most important gestures of support for the incubation of artists globally, and CalArts is honored to work with the Herb Alpert Foundation in administering this award for 26 years. CalArts is a community of artists whose mission is to transform ourselves, each other, and the world through artistic practice, and the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts is an important part of fulfilling that mission.” Herb Alpert Award recipients are provided with a week-long teaching residency at CalArts which has led to several joining the faculty.

The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts is an unrestricted prize of $75,000 given annually to five risk-taking mid-career artists working in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theatre and the visual arts. The prize was initiated and funded by the Herb Alpert Foundation and has been administered by California Institute of the Arts since 1994. The Herb Alpert Award honors and supports artists respected for their creativity, ingenuity, and bodies of work, at a moment in their lives when they are poised to propel their art in new and unpredictable directions. The Herb Alpert Award recognizes experimenters who are making something that matters within and beyond their field.

The Herb Alpert Foundation envisions a world in which all young people are blessed with opportunities that allow them to reach their potential and lead productive and fulfilling lives. Over the past few years, the Foundation has focused on core areas: “The Arts,” a broad category that includes arts education, a focus on jazz, and support to professionals. This also includes programs that seek to use the arts to help meet the needs of underserved youth and to help build competencies that will enable them to become successful adults. The other core area is “Compassion and Well-Being,”which celebrates the positive aspects of human psychology and seeks to bring more compassion and compassionate behavior to our society. Please note: The Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals.

CalArts (California Institute of Art) is recognized internationally as a leading laboratory for the visual, performing, media and literary arts. Housing six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts educates professional artists in an intensive learning environment founded on art-making excellence, creative experimentation, cross-pollination among diverse artistic disciplines, and a broad context of social and cultural understanding. CalArts also operates the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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