“I’ve always loved the artists that travel the road less traveled…those are the artists that touch me.”
May 3, 2023 marked the 29th annual celebration of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, which was presented to 11 risk-taking, mid-career artists — experimenters — who are challenging and transforming art, their respective disciplines, and society. Fifteen highly regarded leaders in the arts made up the panels reviewing the candidates and selecting two award recipients in each of five disciplines: dance, film/video, music, theatre and visual arts. The dance category saw one of the awards presented to a collaboration of two artists who will share the award.
The 2023 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts winners:
– DANCE: Ayodele Casel, Makini (jumatatu m. poe) & Jermone Donte Beacham
– FILM/VIDEO: Christopher Harris, Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich
– MUSIC: Erin Gee, Linda May Han Oh
– THEATRE: Tania El Khoury, Whitney White
– VISUAL ARTS: American Artist, Park McArthur
The awards were founded and conceived by legendary musician, philanthropist and artist Herb Alpert, and his Grammy-winning vocalist wife, Lani Hall. Now in its 29th year, the HAAIA has to date been awarded to 164 artists. Each award includes a $75,000 unrestricted prize and residency at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) which administers the prize on behalf of the Herb Alpert Foundation.
Herb Alpert and Lani Hall created the Herb Alpert Foundation in 1985 and over thirty years and more than $200 million dollars later, Herb Alpert remains one of America’s most important and loyal advocates for the arts and arts education.
Among the past HAAIA winners are noted artists: Carrie Mae Weems, Taylor Mac, Suzan-Lori Parks, Julia Wolfe, Michelle Dorrance, Tania Bruguera, Kerry James Marshall, Lisa Kron, Sharon Lockhart, Ralph Lemon, Arthur Jafa, Cai Guo-Qiang, Okwui Okpokwasili and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah to name a few.
Irene Borger, Director of HAAIA since its inception in 1994, reflects on the Award’s continued importance in honoring experimental artists attentive to the turbulence of American life. “Yes, ‘the world offers itself to [our] imagination,’ yet it seems more critical now to offer a fierce and forward looking imagination to the world — which is precisely what all of the 2023 Herb Alpert Award Artists do.”
Rona Sebastian, President of the Herb Alpert Foundation added,“Herb and Lani Alpert continue their decades-long commitment to support those art makers and performing artists who, in grappling with our challenging world, are creating innovative, vital, and necessary work.”
“The generosity of Herb and Lani is legendary, and their work supporting artists to take risks, through The Alpert Awards, has propelled artmaking in this country for decades, ” said Ravi Rajan, CalArts president. “The list of past honorees is testament to how the award gives artists the space and time to create work that transforms the world.”
The following summaries highlight why the 2023 panelists chose these eleven extraordinary artists:
DANCE PANEL SUMMARY
The Dance panel celebrates Ayodele Casel for her exquisite, formidable artistry in performance and dancemaking, her discernment and generosity, and her dedication to strengthening awareness of tap’s intellect, its intricacy, its Black history–in particular, the overlooked contributions of Black women in tap – and its soul.
The Dance panel honor the duo Makini (jumatatu m. poe) and Jermone Donte Beacham for their artistic collaboration. Shining new light on communities, histories, ways of life, and ways of expression and celebration not previously acknowledged in our industry, they raise the visibility of J-Setting, a movement style derived from drill teams, and developed in Southern Black queer club culture, and reveal the largeness and complexity of our world.
– Carla Peterson, director, Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
– Ali Rosa-Salas, curator, Vice President of Visual and Performing Arts, Abron Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement, New York, NY; Associate Curator, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, MA
– Eva Yaa Asantewaa, veteran independent arts writer, podcaster, editor, curator, dramaturge; founding Director of Black Diaspora, New York, NY
FILM/VIDEO PANEL SUMMARY
The Film/Video panel applauds experimental filmmaker/artist Christopher Harris, a true cinematic explorer, for his sustained commitment to formal and conceptual experimentation, his fresh eyes and admirable restlessness, yielding a deeply personal film language, both astute and expressive in its analysis of the nuances of Black histories, systemic neglect, and oppression.
Moved by the elegance and poetic rhythm of her works, by their assuredness and attunement with their subjects, the Film/Video panel celebrates filmmaker and artist Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich who combines striking imagery, sound design, and montage with rigorous research and interrogation, attending to the oft-neglected interiority of Black women and elders, and revealing deep meaning and nuance in each of her films.
– Dessane Lopez Cassell, writer and curator; Editor-in-Chief, Seen journal (BlackStar Projects), Brooklyn, NY
– Bill Morrison, filmmaker, HAAIA Awardee, New York, NY
– Richard Peña, Professor of Professional Practice (Film), Columbia University and Director Emeritus of the New York Film Festival, New York, NY
MUSIC PANEL SUMMARY
The Music panel honors composer and vocalist Erin Gee for her groundbreaking explorations of the human voice, and her focused and sublime aural imagination. Creating micro-worlds brimming with nuanced and fresh colors, continuing to develop and deepen an innovative and personal musical vocabulary, she is carving out a potent and vital space within contemporary music.
The Music panel celebrates master bassist, composer and band leader Linda May Hanh Oh for the breadth of her musical language, orchestrational palette and intellectual rigor. Her music, full of powerfully unexpected moments, alternately rhythmic, ornate, bright, spare, and whimsical, expresses the
– Derek Bermel, composer, clarinetist, HAAIA Awardee, Brooklyn, NY
– Nicole Mitchell, composer/improv, HAAIA Awardee, Henderson, NC
– Pamela Z, composer/performer, HAAIA Awardee, San Francisco, CA
THEATRE PANEL SUMMARY
The Theatre panel esteems live artist Tania El Khoury for her serious and playful, and complex work, her breadth of imagination, and powerful sense of ethical responsibility. Studying the political potential of live art, treating audiences as fellow investigators and researchers, inventing new forms and new ways of engagement with each project, she is opening new paths of meaning and creation.
Whitney White was selected by the Theatre panel for her artistic range as a writer, musician, performer, and director who moves fluidly between difficult and knotty contemporary plays and well-known classics, never allowing herself to be pigeonholed as one kind of artist. A brilliant and generous collaborator, she leads audiences on wonderful investigations of form, politics, and of the fundamental nature of theatre.
– Emilya Cachapero, Director of Grantmaking Programs, Theatre Communications Group and arts consultant, New York, NY
– Avery Willis Hoffman, artistic director, Brown Arts Institute and Professor of the Practice, Brown University, Providence, RI
– Gideon Lester, artistic director and chief executive, Fisher Center, Bard College and senior curator, Open Society University Network’s Center for the Arts and Human Rights, Annandale-on-Hudson and Brooklyn, NY
VISUAL ARTS PANEL SUMMARY
Artist American Artist was chosen Visual Arts prizewinner for their “thought experiments” which charge a potent space for examining urgent issues at the intersection of race, technology, and power while exploring potential alternative realities and futures. Through sculpture, video, and digital interventions, their ever-evolving body of work will continue prompting viewers, in the artist’s words, to “remain critical of the social conditions that we take for granted.”
Artist Park McArthur was named Visual Arts prizewinner for her incisive, insightful practice addressing urgent yet overlooked issues related to dependency, autonomy, ableism, and accessibility, particularly in relation to institutional sites and structures. McArthur’s diverse and conceptually rich bodies of work interrogate and reframe imposed-upon notions of care and access.
VISUAL ARTS PANELISTS
– Nana Adusei Poku, scholar, curator, Asst. Prof in African Diasporic Art History, Dept of History of Art, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
– Jessica Hong, curator and cultural worker; Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
– Joan Simon, independent curator, writer, arts administrator, Santa Monica, CA
For additional information on the 2023 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts winners, please click here.
The 29th HAAIA awards celebration was held virtually on Wednesday, May 3.
– Short film on the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts
– 2023 Winner Headshots
– Credit: Courtesy of the artist
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