The Genius Awards are presented by the Snoqualmie Tribe Fund and Alaska Airlines VISA Signature Card

For years, Genius Award winners were chosen in a secret, elaborate ritual involving The Stranger's arts editors, a cave, yelling, mud, and whiskey. We'd announce the winners after we emerged—giving $5,000 each to five artists, in literature, performance, visual art, music, and film, and throwing them a huge citywide party. But then we thought: This isn't like choosing a goddamn pope. The Genius Awards could, and should, involve the arts community. It should involve the whole city!

So last year, instead of just privately selecting the winners and giving them a pile of money at an awesome party, arts editors at The Stranger—who are also the editors of A&P—selected not one winner, but three finalists in each category. We profiled them in A&P and let Seattle behold all of their genius. Then, in the fall, the roster of past Genius awardees—i.e., the League of Geniuses—voted with us to decide the winners. Nobody except The Stranger's business manager knew who'd won until we all found out from the stage at the Moore.

When some people win, other people don't. And it wasn't the easiest night for them. (We are sorry! Causing pain to people we love is not our fun place!) But we'd like to posit that looking at the big questions is more important than short-lived awkwardness, or a notch on somebody's CV, or maybe even the money (though the money's really nice). If Neal Stephenson and Maged Zaher are both genius at what they do, then should the successful novelist or the up-and-coming poet be recognized this year? Or should it go to an underground literary festival? Should the music award go to a rapper, an orchestral pop composer, or a pair of musicians whose genius completely defies encapsulation? Ultimately, as much as the Genius Awards are about the winners, they're also about supporting and celebrating art in Seattle as we know it—about finding new artists while finding out more about established ones, about figuring out why we love what we love. Who would you vote for?

With the 2013 Genius Awards, we want to throw open conversations, fire up debates, and celebrate each of the art forms in question—along with all of the finalists—all summer long. To that end, please join us for FIVE NIGHTS OF GENIUS at the Frye Art Museum: a series of conversations with every single one of the finalists talking about their work, held over the course of five consecutive Wednesdays (July 24–Aug 21). Get your tickets now at Then we'll see you at the big-ass GENIUS AWARDS PARTY at the Moore on September 28 to toast the winners, and hear Seattle Rock Orchestra, and dance, and generally freak out. recommended

Special thanks to Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Space Needle Corp., Snoqualmie Tobacco and Liquor Company, and Shunpike for their support of the Genius Awards. This year’s Literature award is sponsored by Amazon. This year’s Visual Art award is sponsored by Frye Art Museum. And this year’s Film award is sponsored by Alaska Airlines VISA Signature Card.