The Brandeis Creative Arts Awards were created in 1956 to recognize excellence in the arts, and to help draw the attention of the campus community to the lives and works of active American artists. As originally conceived, awards were presented for painting, poetry, music, and theater. Over the years these categories were enlarged to include sculpture, architecture, film, photography, and other creative arts. Generally each category received two awards: a Medal to an established artist in celebration of a lifetime achievement; and a Citation to an individual in an earlier stage of his or her career. In addition, from time to time the Creative Arts Awards Commission bestowed the Notable Achievement Award to a person whose contributions to the Creative Arts in America exceeded his or her contemporaries beyond the boundaries of the Medal and Citation.
The recipients for the annual awards were decided by the Creative Arts Awards Commission, a group which included artists, collectors, curators, and art administrators. The Commission authorized the selection of the jury chairpersons and the formation of each jury, and then voted to accept or reject the recommendation of the juries for the Medal and Citation recipients, as well as for the nomination for the Notable Achievement Awards recipients.
Prior to 1990, the awards were celebrated at two events in the Spring of each academic year. The first was a festival held on the Brandeis campus which provided an opportunity for the recipients to share their work and talent with Brandeis students and faculty. The second was an evening affair, with a reception, a visual or live presentation of each artist's work, and the award ceremony in New York City. After 1990 the award ceremony and the campus festival were combined into a day-long program held on the Brandeis campus.
In 1995, the Creative Arts Awards evolved into The Poses Institute of Arts at Brandeis University. Continuing the legacy of artistic recognition, The Poses Institute of Arts seeks to "honor extraordinary artistic achievement" by awarding annual residencies for artists in diverse artistic disciplines.
2015 marked the return of the Creative Arts Award which was given in addition to a residency to Tony Arnold. The Creative Arts Award and residency are a program of the Brandeis Division of Creative Arts.