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Herb Alpert Award in the Arts Announces 2021 Panelists


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

May 20, 2021 will mark the 27th annual celebration of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (HAAIA) and the doubling of awardees, this year, from five to ten risk-taking, mid-career artists – experimenters - who are challenging and transforming art, their respective disciplines, and society. Fifteen highly regarded leaders in the arts make up the panels overseeing the artist nominations, selecting two award recipients in each of five disciplines: dance, film/video, music, theatre and visual arts.

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 27th year, the HAAIA has to date been awarded to 130 artists. Each awardee receives 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 $185 million dollars later, Herb Alpert remains one of America’s most important and loyal advocates for the arts and arts education. Having witnessed the gradual, and sometimes precipitous decline of funding for the arts, Herb Alpert decided to do something about it, and artists found a new arena of support – and a new champion.

Irene Borger, Director of HAAIA since its inception in 1994, reflects on the Award’s continued importance in such a trying time for artists. “Ten of this year's panelists are Herb Alpert Award Artists. All fifteen have had projects delayed, cancelled, turned upside-down or closed. Giving ten prizes meant double the good news in a hard time.”

Rona Sebastian, President of the Herb Alpert Foundation added, “In appreciation of the significant challenges facing art makers and performing artists during this period of diminished opportunities, Herb and Lani Alpert decided, for this particular year, to double the number of awards to help support artists to be productive and thrive."

Today, the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts announces the 2021 panelists (see below). Each award is adjudicated by three-member panels of respected arts professionals and artists - including ten past winners for this year - in each of the five categories.


Nora Chipaumire - choreographer, dancer, Herb Alpert Award winner, NY
Alma Guillermoprieto - reporter/writer, Bogotá, Colombia
Gideon Lester - artistic director, 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


Almudena Escobar Lopez - independent curator, scholar, archivist, and researcher, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
Alexandra Juhasz - scholar, maker, and teacher of activist media, Distinguished Professor of Film, Brooklyn College, CUNY, Brooklyn, NY
Renee Tajima-Peña - filmmaker, Herb Alpert Award winner, Professor of Asian American Studies, director, the Center for EthnoCommunications, UCLA


Courtney Bryan - composer-pianist, Herb Alpert Award winner, The Albert and Linda Mintz Professor of Music, Newcomb College in the School of Liberal Arts, Tulane University, New Orleans
Vijay Iyer, composer-pianist, Herb Alpert Award winner, Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, Harvard University, New York 
Miya Masaoka, composer, sound artist, Herb Alpert Award winner, Associate
Professor, Director, Sound Art Program, Columbia University, New York


Eisa Davis - playwright, singer, composer, actor, Herb Alpert Award winner, Brooklyn, NY
Dan Hurlin - theater maker, Herb Alpert Award winner, New York
Naomi Iizuka -playwright, professor, head of graduate playwriting, University of California, San Diego, Herb Alpert Award winner, San Diego, CA

Visual Arts

Emily Jacir - artist, Herb Alpert Award winner, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Dar Jacir for Art and Research, Bethlehem
Valerie Cassel Oliver - Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Michael Rakowitz - artist, Herb Alpert Award winner, Professor of Art and Director of Graduate Studies, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

Among the 130 past 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. 

The 27th HAAIA awards celebration will be held virtually on Thursday, May 20, 2021 at 2pm PST.

 Short film on the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts

Clockwise from L to R: Lani Hall Alpert, Herb Alpert, CalArts President Ravi Rajan, Herb Alpert Foundation President Rona Sebastian, HAAIA Founding Director Irene Borger. Photo credit: Shawn Connell Studio

About Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert is a musician, record producer and executive, sculptor, painter and philanthropist. His albums have sold over 72 million copies, and 29 of his records have reached the Billboard 200. Billboard also listed Alpert as #7 on their Greatest Of All Time Billboard 200 Artists. He co-founded A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962 turning it into one of the most successful independent record labels in history. In 2012 Alpert was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

About the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts

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 the California Institute of the Arts since 1994. The 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.

About The Herb Alpert Foundation 

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, such as “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 empathy and compassionate behavior into our society. Please note: the Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals.