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Neddy Artist Awards 2015 Finalists Announced

Seattle, WA—Robin Held, director of the Neddy Artist Awards, announced today the 2015 finalists. In painting, they are Matt Browning, Paul Komada, Elise Richman and Robert Yoder. For open medium, they are: Leo Saul Berk, Wynne Greenwood, Mark Mitchell and Rodrigo Valenzuela. All the finalists will participate in studio visits by a National Juror, an esteemed arts professional from outside the region, who will determine the Neddy Artist Awardees. Two of the artists, one in each category, will receive the Neddy Artist Award, an unrestricted cash award of $25,000.

The Neddy Artist Awards, housed at Cornish College of the Arts, are among the largest artist awards in the State of Washington, providing two annual, unrestricted gifts of $25,000 to artists living and working in the greater Puget Sound region as well as smaller cash grants of $1,500 to all the finalists annually. Established in 1996 by the Behnke family, the Neddy Artist Awards are named for artist Robert E. “Ned” Behnke (1948-1989). Awards are given in the category of painting, Ned’s chosen artistic medium, and open medium, any medium or combination of media grounded in the visual arts.

All finalists’ art will be included in the Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition, September 9 through October 24, 2015, curated by Sharon Arnold of the Roq la Rue Gallery. The exhibition will be held in the Project Space/Main Gallery at Cornish College of the Arts.

Neddy Artists Awards Selection

The eight finalists are selected from the total pool of applicants by a group of three regional arts professionals, who bring their external perspectives and expertise to the process. From this group of finalists, a national juror from outside the Puget Sound region selects the two Neddy Artist Awards recipients, after conducting studio visits with each artist. Neddy program staff members and their immediate families are not eligible to apply for an award, serve as advisor, or serve as a selection committee member or final juror.

The Neddy Artist Awards finalists 2015 were chosen by Negarra Kudumu, Kolya Rice, and Storm Tharp.

Negarra A. Kudumu is a Seattle-based writer, researcher, and professional active in the arts and culture sectors. Her intellectual interests lie in the fields of cultural production and consumption, postcolonial studies, third space theory, and contemporary African and diasporic art. Professionally Negarra focuses on the development and execution of arts education and public programs, as well as community engagement strategies for arts and culture organizations. She has most recently served as the 2014 Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute Artist-in-Residence, is a contributing writer and editor to The Postcolonialist and is currently the educator at the Frye Art Museum.

Kolya Rice is a professor and independent critic/curator whose work focuses on modern and contemporary art history. He is currently a PhD candidate in contemporary art history and criticism at the University of Washington (UW), and received his MA from Rice University. He has taught a wide range of courses on western art, theory and criticism at the University of Washington, Seattle University, and the University of Puget Sound over the last decade, and lectures frequently at Frye Art Museum, and Tacoma Art Museum. He is currently a visiting lecturer at the UW and an associate professor at Cascadia College.

Storm Tharp received a BFA from Cornell University. Following the selection of his work for the 2010 Whitney Biennial, he has become widely known for enigmatic portraits that investigate the performance of identity and abstraction. Recent exhibitions include the Miami Project 2014, Tiger, PDX Contemporary and Turn, Feldbuschwiesner Galerie, Berlin. Tharp lives and works in Portland, Oregon, and is represented by PDX Contemporary.

Neddy Artist Awards Honor the Legacy of Ned Behnke

The Neddy Artist Awards honor the art, accomplishments, and community involvement of Seattle painter Ned Behnke (1948-1989). Ned was the son of Robert and Sally 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 then graduated with a Master’s in Fine Arts, Painting, from the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He went on to teach hearing-impaired students at Cornish College of the Arts. 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.

Neddy Artist Awards History

The Neddy Artist Awards are among the largest artist awards in the State of Washington, providing two annual, unrestricted gifts of $25,000. Established in 1996 by the Behnke family, the Neddy Artist Awards are named for artist Robert E. “Ned” Behnke (1948-1989). Cornish College of the Arts has stewarded the award program since 2011, expanding its reach and programming. 

In 1996, the Behnke family, through the Behnke Foundation, established the Neddy Artist Awards, as a way to honor and remember Ned. 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 moved to Cornish College of the Arts, certain adjustments were made, refreshing and expanding the program. 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.

When stewardship of the Neddy Awards was moved to Cornish College of the Arts in 2011, the impact of the award program was expanded and deepened—for Cornish students, the artist community and the general public—by the addition of an accompanying series of events and activities. This series honors and supports the art and ideas of the Awardees. The Neddy Artist Awards are unrestricted cash gifts. Awardee participation in these programs and activities is optional.

Today the program is overseen by Robin Held, an arts leader with a record of success in shepherding strategic change, value creation, and fundraising in not-for-profit arts and media education, museums, and the private sector. Her past institutional positions include executive director of Reel Girls, which educates, mentors, and equips young women to create transformative media; deputy director of exhibitions and collections, Frye Art Museum, Seattle; and associate curator at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington.

Held has been associated with the Neddy Artist Awards for four years, acting first as an advisor before accepting the role of director in 2015.

More About Cornish College of the Arts

Cornish College of the Arts awards Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in art, dance, design, performance production and theater, a Bachelor of Music, and a post-graduate Artist Diploma in Early Music.

Since its establishment, the College’s founder Nellie Cornish, and the many teaching artists who followed her, believed in education through exposure to all the arts. This approach continues to inform the College’s curriculum and community involvement today. Cornish is accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Cornish College of the Arts has been honored to steward the Neddy Artist Awards on behalf of the Behnke family and the community since 2011.