California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) was incorporated in 1961 as the first degree granting institution of higher learning in the United States created specially for students of both the visual and the performing arts. The Institute was established through the merger of two well-established professional schools, the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, founded in 1883, and The Chouinard Art Institute, founded in 1921. CalArts celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2010.

The Institute is comprised of six related schools: Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theatre. CalArts encourages students to recognize the complexity of political, social and aesthetic questions and to respond to them with informed, independent judgment. Supported by its distinguished faculty of practicing artists, CalArts offers BFA and MFA degree programs in Art, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theatre and an MFA program in Critical Studies. In recognition of the Institute's artistic excellence, The Herb Alpert Foundation selected CalArts to administer and collaborate creatively in the establishment of the Awards Program.