Here, There & Everywhere: The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts

May 15, 2014

By Don Heckman

Describing Herb Alpert as a philanthropist doesn’t accurately identify the full generosity of his activities over recent decades. Many of his awards have been institutional, to UCLA, USC, CalArts and beyond. And in each of those cases, his generosity has had a significant impact upon the effectiveness of their music education programs.

But Alpert has done much more. For the past twenty years, his Herb Alpert Award in the Arts has annually given $75,000 prizes each to five mid–career, risk–taking artists in dance, film/video, music, theatre, and visual arts.

“Over the last twenty years,” says Alpert, “we’ve been lucky enough to have given a boost to choreographers, musicians, visual and media artists, and theatre makers, those who keep on searching, and making powerful, spirited work. For all of us to enjoy…or not.”

Last Friday, Alpert and his wife Lani Hall hosted the announcement of his year’s awards at an annual award lunch. And, once again, the line up of winners included an impressive array of creative artists.

Michelle Dorrance, Matana Roberts, Deborah Stratman, Herb Alpert, Lani Hall Alpert, Annie Dorsen, DAniel Joseph Martinez

Michelle Dorrance, Matana Roberts, Deborah Stratman, Herb Alpert, Lani Hall Alpert, Annie Dorsen, Daniel Joseph Martinez

Here are the winners in the various categories, along with comments from Irene Borger, Director of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, regarding the reasons for their selection:

- Dance: Tap dancer Michelle Dorreance. Chosen for her “inventive sophistication and transporting the field into radically new places.”

- Music: Composer, avant-garde saxophonist and sound artist Matana Roberts. Chosen for her charismatic, powerful renderings of sound.”

- Film/Video: Documentary Filmmaker Deborah Stratman. Chosen for her “important body of films, and the ways she grapples with tough issues.”

- Theatre: Theatre artist Annie Dorsen. Chosen for her “audacious investigations, unrelenting pursuit of ideas, and new theatrical forms.”

- Visual Arts: Post-conceptual artist Daniel Joseph Martinez. Chosen for his “his fearless, continually evolving practice, unwavering commitment to art and politics, to the field, and to Los Angeles.”

Alpert summed up the significance of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in a final comment, perfectly reflecting the adventurousness of his own long career as an imaginative, improvising jazz artist always in search of new ideas:

“What happens,” says Alpert, “when you support artists with that special spark? You don’t know — and that’s exactly part of the magic.”

It’s a magic that Alpert has either been creating or supporting – and sometimes both – over the course of the music he’s been making from the early days of the Tijuana Brass to his most recent recordings and performances with his wife Lani Hall Alpert.

Add to that the equally magical works Alpert has been producing in his remarkable career as a highly regarded painter and sculptor. No wonder he relates so empathically with the simlarly imaginative winners of his Herb Alpert Award in the Arts.

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Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision courtesy of the Herb Alpert Foundation.

 

 


Here, There & Everywhere: The 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts

May 11, 2012

By Don Heckman

Herb Alpert has had more successes – creative and financial – than most artists can dream of experiencing.  And to his credit he’s handled them with remarkable finesse and generosity.  Music programs at UCLA and CalArts have benefited from his multi-million dollar grants to each institution.

Herb Alpert

Today, another impressive display of the Alpert munificence took place with the presentation of the 2012 Alpert Awards in the Arts, a combined effort of the Herb Alpert Foundation and CalArts. The Awards, now in their 19th installment, recognize mid-career achievements in Music, Dance, Film/Video, Theatre and Visual Arts.

All of the winners — as well as Alpert, CalArts faculty members and some of the panel members who made the Awards selections — were in attendance earlier today for a celebratory party at the Alpert Foundation offices in Santa Monica. Each receives a $75,000 award.

Jazz fans can be especially pleased that the Music Award was granted to pianist/composer Myra Melford, whose ground breaking, exploratory recordings have provided some of the most fascinating improvisational journeys of the past two decades.

Myra Melford

According to Irene Borger, Director of the Alpert Award in the Arts, Melford was honored “for her ascending and expansive trajectory, and great, generous musical mind…her willingness to dive into the deep end of the pool and her ability to take multiple musical traditions into another sphere.”

Ms. Borger also announced the reasoning behind the other awards:

Nora Chipaumire

Dance: Nora Chipaumire, “for her profound movement intellirgence, steaming hot and extraordinary presence, the dialogue she creates with audiences, and her visceral struggles with critical issues of the day.”

* * * *

Kevin Everson

Film/Video: Kevin Everson, “for his relentless curiosity, sustained inquiry, for elevating the visual power of expressive quotidian gestures of working people, and for his aesthetic caring gaze.”

* * * *

Eisa Davis

Theatre: Eisa Davis, “for her profound multiple gifts as playwright, performer and musician, her portrayal of the complex richness of our American character, and her work’s relevance and epic sweep, expanding our notion of how one might live in the 21st century.”

* * * *

Michael Smith

Visual Arts: Michael Smith, “for subversively using the visual languages of popular and corporate culture to take on big issues, for pioneering narrative within video art practice, and for rendering the everyday as truly strange….”

Alpert’s smiling presence underscored the satisfaction he must feel for the display of yet another of his vital contributions to the arts.  He could, after all, have bought an island (or two or three) in the Caribbean and retired to a life of luxurious beach-combing, painting, sculpting and some trumpet playing on the side.  Not that he’s given up on the latter three.  Not at all.  His fascinating paintings and sculptures are omnipresent in the Foundation offices, his home near Malibu and his Bel Air jazz club, Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. And he and his wife, the gifted singer Lani Hall, continue to record and tour with their stellar group.

But Alpert also expresses his creativity via his beneficence – via his generous financial support for the arts as a vital, continually expressive element in American life.

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Photos courtesy of the Herb Alpert Foundation.


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