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Herb Alpert Award names five winners who will get $75,000 each to push their art forward

Herb Alpert Award names five winners who will get $75,000 each to push their art forward
Meshell Ndegeocello, one of five Herb Alpert Award winners for 2019. (Herb Albert Award)

A playwright exploring the Asian American experience and a film and video artist who addresses the representation of Puerto Ricans in culture are among the five people who will receive $75,000 each as winners of the annual Herb Alpert Award in the Arts.

The 2019 prizes, presented by the Herb Alpert Foundation and the California Institute of the Arts, will go to:

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In theater: New York playwright Lloyd Suh, director of artistic programs for the new-play laboratory the Lark and a mentor to Asian American writers. The Alpert panel cited Suh’s “adventurous spirit, thrilling theatrical imagination, brilliant sense of play and the way he approaches each work as a new form while constantly exploring questions of identity in America.”

In music: Composer, singer and producer Meshell Ndegeocello. A three-person Alpert music panel that included Vijay Iyer called Ndegeocello “a rare constellation in the artistic firmament, whose generosity of spirit defies the confines of genre and whose work dwells in both darkness and deliverance.”

In dance: Choreographer Pam Tanowitz, known for celebrating the historical work of the likes of George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham and John Cage while also embracing new music from contemporary composers such as Annie Gosfield. Panelists noted the New York-based Tanowitz’s “uncompromising artistic vision, rigorous sense of craft and composition.”

In visual arts: Activist Cecilia Vicuña. Hamza Walker, director of LAXART in Los Angeles, was part of the panel that selected the Chilean native, now based in New York, for her “unwavering feminism” and for her “fearless explorations, uncompromising poetics [and] responses to today's political, social and ecological realities.”

In film/video: Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, who based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has centered herself on imagining “a decolonized Caribbean.” She was cited for her “unique visual language that reveals the invisible, and magically locates the cosmic in the everyday.”

Each artist also receives a one-week residency at CalArts, which administers the grants on behalf of the Herb Alpert Foundation. Winners will gather in New York on Monday as the Herb Alpert Award marks its 25th anniversary.

Jazz musician Alpert founded the award with his wife, vocalist Lani Hall, to support art that might otherwise suffer from a lack of funding. To date, 125 artists have won the award. A majority of them will gather at the party Monday, organizers said.

Among the past winners and panelists expected to attend: Bill Moyers, composer Julia Wolfe, “Oklahoma!” director and current Tony nominee Daniel Fish, writer Carl Hancock Rux, composer Derek Bermel, “Fun Home” composer Lisa Kron and the artistic director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, Kristy Edmunds.

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