Neddy Artist Awards

About Neddy Artist Awards

Cornish College of the Arts prepares its students to contribute to society as artists, citizens and innovators. The Neddy Artist Awards are a beacon of this mission. The Neddy Artist Awards are among the largest artist awards in the State of Washington, providing two annual gifts of $25,000, and six awards of $1,500, to artists living and working in the Puget Sound region.

The Neddy Artist Awards, established in 1996 by the Behnke family, honors the art, accomplishments and community involvement of Seattle painter and teacher Robert E. “Ned” Behnke (1948-1989). When stewardship of the awards program moved to Cornish College of the Arts in 2011, its impact was expanded and deepened—for Cornish students, the artist community, and the general public—with the addition of an accompanying series of lectures, programs and activities. A strategic partnership was begun with Reel Grrls Productions, the first media-artist education organization in the U.S. to focus on girls’ training in digital media technology, connecting Cornish and the Neddy Awards to the next generation of artists, citizens, and innovators.

This is the nineteenth year of the Neddy Awards. The Behnke family and the Behnke Foundation supported for many years this gift of direct and unrestricted support to artists in the Pacific Northwest. It is currently supported by a bequest from the estate of philanthropist Sally Skinner Behnke, Ned’s mother. Cornish College of the Arts is honored to steward this awards program, on behalf of the family and the artist community. Cornish especially thanks Sally Skinner Behnke, in memorium, for extending this vital program to Cornish as part of her legacy, continuing the investment of her grandmother in the founding of the College.

Neddy Artist Awards Honor the Legacy of Ned Behnke

The Neddy Artist Awards honor the legacy of Seattle painter and teacher Ned Behnke (1948-1989). Ned was the son of Robert and Sally Skinner Behnke. Deaf from birth, Ned Behnke expressed himself in the visual arts from an early age. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Central Washington University, and his Master’s Degree in Fine Arts, Painting, from the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He lived and worked in Seattle, where he taught art to hearing-impaired students at Cornish College of the Arts, and other institutions. A Cornish painting studio was named in his honor in 1982.

During his life, Ned Behnke received many national arts awards; among them, a major public art commission by the King County Arts Commission, for the Seattle Hearing and Deafness Center. He exhibited his art widely, with gallery representation, by Foster/White Gallery, Seattle. Ned Behnke died in 1989.

His legacy is in evidence throughout our community, through the generous philanthropy of the Behnke family. The Northwest AIDS Foundation (now the LIFELONG AIDS Alliance) created the Ned Behnke Leadership Award in 1993; and the Ned Behnke Preschool, Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center, was founded in 2007, with an emphasis on speech, language, and literacy development.

Neddy Artist Awards History

In 1996, the Behnke family founded the Neddy Artist Awards, as a way to honor and remember Ned Behnke. In the beginning, this was one annual award ($10,000), in the category of Painting, Ned’s chosen artistic medium. In 1998, the award program expanded to include two annual awards: one in Painting, and a second in a regularly rotating category, such as Sculpture, Photography, or Ceramics, among others. For many years, the award process was by nomination only.

In 2011, stewardship of the award program was transferred to Cornish College of the Arts, where the program was refreshed and expanded to optimize its potential at an institution of higher learning. The first of the two awards continues in the category of Painting; the second is in the category of Open Medium. The application process is now an open call to all professional artists in the Puget Sound region. Currently, the Neddy Artist Awards are among the largest awards in the State of Washington, providing two annual unrestricted gifts of $25,000, and six unrestricted gifts of $1,500.

Cornish College of the Arts has expanded and deepened the awards program for artists and audiences, with a series of lectures, programs and activities, as well as customized opportunities for awardee-student engagement. A strategic partnership with Reel Grrls Productions provides archival artist interviews, and connects Cornish and the Neddy Awards to the next generation of artists, citizens, and innovators.

Neddy Artist Awards Application

Each year, eight artists living and working in the greater Puget Sound region are selected as finalists. From these eight finalists, two awardees are selected to receive $25,000 unrestricted prizes—one in the Painting category and one in the Open Medium category (any medium or combination of media grounded in the visual arts). The remaining six Finalists each receive $1,500, and a selection of their art is included in a curated group exhibition at Cornish College of the Arts.

See the application guidelines for more information on eligibility and award process.

Neddy Artist Awards Selection

The eight finalists are selected from the total pool of applicants by a group of three regional arts professionals. From this group of finalists, a national juror, from an arts center outside the Northwest, selects the two Neddy Artist Awards recipients, after conducting studio visits with each artist.

Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition

The Neddy Artist Awards, in addition to cash awards, mounts a Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition. This annual exhibition features art by Awardees and Finalists, selected by an esteemed contemporary arts curator. The Neddy Artist Awards recipients are publicly announced at the opening reception of the Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition, which opens the first week of the fall term, and to which are invited students, faculty, the arts community, and the general public. The Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition is a hallmark of the Cornish College of the Arts calendar, and its exhibition period provides a platform and venue for a wide range of student-focused programs and activities.

Neddy Artist Awards Documentation and Reel Grrls

In 2012, The Neddy Artist Awards entered a strategic partnership with Reel Grrls Productions to video record interviews with all Awardees and Finalists. These interviews provide important documentation for the Behnke Foundation, the Neddy Artist Awards, Cornish College of the Arts and its students, and the artists, along with scholars, arts writers and press. Reel Grrls, founded in 1999, was the first arts education organization in the U.S. to focus on girls’ training in the hard and soft skills of digital-media technology. RG’s mission is to educate the next generation of tech-savvy artists, activists, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals.

Neddy Artist Awards Annual Lecture

When stewardship of the Neddy Artist Awards was moved to Cornish College of the Arts in 2011, the program was expanded to include important new elements. The Neddy Artist Awards support an annual public lecture by a distinguished artist, whose work embodies the spirit of art and social engagement of Ned Behnke, and the values and mission of Cornish College of the Arts. Harrell Fletcher, Susan Robb, Oliver Herring, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, andTameka Norris are among the artists who have presented this lecture.