About Us

What is the Herb Alpert Award?

Irene Borger talks about the Herb Alpert Awards


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 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 Alpert recognizes experimenters who are making something that matters within and beyond their field.

Who receives the Herb Alpert Award?
Herb Alpert Award in the Arts Celebration


  • In Dance, the prize is given to choreographers, choreographer/performers, and performance artists creating movement-based work.
  • The Film/Video Award honors independent media artists working in film, video, multimedia, new technologies, and installation.
  • Composers and musician/composers are eligible for the prize in Music.
  • The Award in Theatre is given to playwrights, auteur directors, and performance artists creating text-based work.
  • Recipients in Visual Arts work in all media, performance and conceptual forms.
How would you describe the ethos of the Herb Alpert Award?
2013 Herb Alpert Award Winner Sharon Hayes, Visual Arts

Herb Alpert Award artists are curious, they wrestle with the given. From the beginning, the prize was viewed as a way to encourage artists to take risks. Here is how some of the artists have expressed this:

“The Herb Alpert Award allowed me to not have to know where I was going, to stumble blindly until I found my way,” choreographer Victoria Marks wrote.

Filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh saw the prize as an “opportunity to shake myself up.

Musician Vijay Iyer said, “I took it as an urgent, timely directive to push myself further.

I want to make work that makes people brave,” noted collaborative theatre artist Lisa D'Amour.

The greatest danger is believing that there is a right way to make a film,” said filmmaker Ellen Bruno.

From artist Byron Kim: “I am interested in making abstraction and abstract painting relevant today, and doing so in a way that might subvert our usual ways of perceiving.

Rinde Eckert, interdisciplinary artist, told us “I need to feel I'm learning with each new project, and that each work is a piece of a much larger puzzle.

Artist Paul Chan summed it up: “I make work that works to remake me.

How are the 5 artists identified?

In three stages:

  1. 50 artists and arts professionals each nominate 2 artists.
  2. 100 nominated artists are invited to submit work samples.
  3. 5 three-person panels - Dance, Film/Video, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts – each select one artist for the Award.
Nominators and panelists change yearly and are chosen for their knowledge of contemporary art practices, their integrity and aesthetic, ethnic, geographic and gender diversity.
Who are some of the people who’ve served as Herb Alpert Award panelists?
What do nominators do?
What goes on in a panel meeting?
What are some of the questions we ask panelists?
What are some of the results of being given the Herb Alpert Award?
What have Herb Alpert artists said about other effects of receiving the prize?
What are the Residency programs?
Terms of the Award