The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts is an annual prize that recognizes risk-taking mid-career artists working in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theatre and the visual arts. This year’s winners were recently announced and we spoke with two of them: Cauleen Smith won in the film/video category, and Dohee Lee won for music.

Cauleen Smith

Smith’s work often takes as its subject African-American women, because, as Smith told us, they are the keepers of culture. She also told us why she’s drawn to Afrofuturism (an aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction with stories from the African diaspora), and how her first feature length film was edited in secret and almost got her kicked out of UCLA.

Dohee Lee

Dohee Lee told us that because her work combines genres like storytelling, music and dance, she doesn’t usually think of herself as just a musician, or just a choreographer. But, says Lee, winning the award for music feels like a stamp of approval from someone who really gets what she’s doing.

Listen below to my interviews with Cauleen Smith and Dohee Lee.



photos courtesy of Susie Goodman

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