04/21/2014 12:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

20 Years of Honoring Mid-Career Avant-Garde Artists

What's it like to be an avant-garde artist in a country where free expression can flourish, and not be able to earn a decent living? To be an artist who is trying to express honest, creative feelings without concern for public acceptance or commercial interests, is a tough road. We need these artists so that the bell of freedom of expression continues to ring. Creativity should be one of our country's most important products.

In a time when the future is indefinable, we will need to depend more and more on the creative mind and ideas to move our country forward. It's important to nurture kids' interest in creativity at an early age in all of our public and private schools. Creativity comes naturally to children and builds self-esteem and confidence as well as the discipline and understanding of the value of hard work. Creativity is our future ... and congratulations to the 100 artists that we honor.

2014 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts Winners

Michelle Dorrance: Dance
Michelle Dorrance, founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance/New York, is one of the most sought-after tap dancers of her generation and "one of the most imaginative tap choreographers working today" (The New Yorker). A 2012 Princess Grace Award Winner, 2012 Field Dance Fund Recipient and 2011 Bessie Award Winner, Michelle performs, teaches and choreographs throughout the world.

Deborah Stratman: Film/Video
Deborah Stratman is a Chicago-based artist and filmmaker interested in landscapes and systems. Her films, rather than telling stories, pose a series of problems -- and through their at times ambiguous nature, allow for a complicated reading of the questions being asked. Much of her work points to the relationships between physical environments and the very human struggles for power and control that are played out on the land. Stratman works in multiple mediums, including sculpture, photography, drawing and audio. She has exhibited internationally at venues including the Whitney Biennial, MoMA NY, the Pompidou, Hammer Museum among others. She is the recipient of Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, a Creative Capital award, and she currently teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Matana Roberts: Music
Internationally documented, Chicago-born. Matana Roberts, a musician, main instrument: alto saxophone; works in many performance/sound mediums including improvisation, dance, poetry, and theater. She aims to expose the mystical roots and the intuitive spirit raising traditions of American creative expression in her music. Her innovative work has forged new conceptual approaches to considering narrativity, history, and political expression within improvisatory structures. past member of the BRC: Black Rock Coalition and the AACM: Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Roberts holds two degrees in music performance and lives in New York city.

Annie Dorsen: Theatre
Theatre artist Annie Dorsen creates, writes, produces, and stages performances that make people curious and make people think. Whether she is using computer-generated texts and live actors, magic tricks, choreography or auctioneering, she seeks the not-yet-known. Dorsen is co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she also directed. Spike Lee has since made a film of her production of the piece, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and was released theatrically by IFC in 2010 before being broadcast on PBS' Great Performances. She has received several fellowships, notably the Sir John Gielgud Fellowship from the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. She has taught at Bard College, New York University and Fordham University, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

Daniel Joseph Martinez: Visual Arts
Daniel Joseph Martinez is a post-conceptual artist who engages in an interrogation of social, political and cultural mores through artworks that have been described as nonlinear, asymmetrical, multidimensional propositions. His works range from the digital to the analogue, ephemeral to the solid. Martinez' work can be found in public collections in the United States and abroad including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California; Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami, Florida; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and the Pace Foundation, San Antonio, Texas. Martinez has received three National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowships, a fellowship from the Getty Center, and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant. In 2008 he received the United States Artists' Fellowship, and in 2009 the Rasmuson Foundation Alaska's artist-in-residence award, and in 2010 the Fellows of Contemporary Art Fellowship.