Announcing the 2023 Arts Innovator Award Recipients!

Published: June 5, 2023

Categories: Artists | Featured | Grants & Fellowships

Announcing the 2023 Arts Innovator Award Recipients! 

We are proud to announce the recipients of the 2023 Arts Innovator Award (AIA), Kassa Overall and Tariqa Waters! Created in partnership with The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation, the Arts Innovator Award recognizes artists who are originating new work, experimenting with new ideas, taking risks, and pushing the boundaries of their fields. Both of these incredible artists will receive $25,000 in recognition of innovation in their artistic practice.


 Kassa Overall

Kassa Overall is a Grammy-nominated musician, emcee, singer, producer, composer, and drummer who melds avant-garde jazz experimentation with hip-hop production techniques to tilt the nexus of jazz and rap in unmapped directions. A virtuosic drummer, his music is conceptualized through his versatility as a producer with an unruly passion for finding connections between analog and electronic music-making.

Originally from Seattle, Kassa attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied with NEA Jazz Master Billy Hart. In 2018, he received the Jazz Gallery Residency Commission. In 2021, he was named Electronics Specialist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association and nominated for two Grammys for his work with Terri Lyne Carrington’s Social Science and Carmen Lundy. A graduate of the acclaimed Garfield Jazz Program, Overall’s Seattle roots brought him back to Washington in 2020 after 14 years living in New York City.

On his first two albums, Kassa layered jazz drumming, meticulous production techniques, and incisive lyricism to establish himself as a rhythmic innovator and visionary poet, using his voice to address the injustices of the carceral system, the pharmaceutical industry, and anti-black racism. Overall’s Seattle roots brought him back to Washington State in 2020 after 14 years living in New York City.

 Tariqa Waters

Named one of Seattle Magazine’s most influential artists, Tariqa Waters innovative practice masterfully commands space through her use of mixed-media tableaus, paintings, photographs, film and whimsical immersive installations. Her technicolor characterizations of multigenerational commercial references reclaim an authentically sincere aesthetic steeped in effortless regality and proudly celebrated traditions.

Julia, mixed media, motorized Lunchbox, 96”x72”x48”, Thermos, 36”x60”x36”, 2020.

Waters’ work has been featured in numerous galleries and Rolling Stone France and Madame Figaro magazines. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at The Hedreen Gallery (2014); Northwest African American Museum, Seattle, WA (2016); and her 5-part glass immersive installation at The Museum of Museums, Seattle, WA (2023).

Waters has been awarded multiple prizes and grants, including receiving the 2016 Conductive-Garboil Grant; The Artist Trust Fellowship Award (2018); The Seattle Art Museum’s Kayla Skinner Special Recognition Award (2020); The Gary Glant Special Recognition Award (2021); and The Neddy at Cornish Open Medium Award (2020).

BLUE: blown glass ball barrette series, Gum Baby 5 room immersive glass installation, 2022.


Kassa and Tariqa were selected as awardees from a cohort of eight finalists by a multidisciplinary panel comprised of five artists from across the state. The remaining six finalists will each receive a $500 honorarium in recognition of their collective achievement and time they invested to participate. The 2023 grant cycle saw the largest AIA applicant pool since the award’s founding in 2010, underscoring the need for amplified artist support during this time.

See the full lists of finalists and panelists below!


2023 Arts Innovator Award Finalist Cohort 

Kamari Bright (Media, King County) 

Jade Solomon Curtis (Performing, King County) 

Jesse Higman (Visual, King County) 

Sonora Jha (Literary, King County) 

Troy Osaki (Literary, King County) 

Yixuan Pan (Media, Pierce County) 


2023 Arts Innovator Award Panelists 

Kyung Hee Im (Kittitas County) 

Nike Imoru (Spokane County)  

Natalie Martínez (King County) 

Devonte Pearson (Spokane County) 

Brent Watanabe (King County) 


Funding for this award is generously donated by the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation. 

2023 AIAArts Innovator AwardGrant AnnouncementGrant RecipientKassa OverallTariqa Waters