About Neddy Artist Awards

Stewarded by Cornish College of the Arts since 2011, the Neddy Artist Awards is the most generous and longest-running award for visual artists 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. 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. In addition to the cash awards, all eight artists participate in an annual exhibition featuring their recent work as well as short documentary videos Cornish produces on each of the artists. The Neddy Artist Awards is funded by the Behnke Foundation as a tribute to Seattle painter and teacher Ned Behnke (1948-1989).

For many years the Behnke family and the Behnke Foundation supported 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 memoriam, 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, and was represented 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.

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.

Cornish College of the Arts has expanded and deepened the awards program for Cornish students, Seattle-area artists, and audiences with a public educational program, the production of videos on each Neddy finalist and winner, as well as opportunities for awardee-student engagement.

Neddy Artist Awards: Free Application

Applying for the Neddy is free and open to visual artists of all ages based in Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Skagit, San Juan, Snohomish, Thurston, or Whatcom counties who are permanent residents of the United States. The application requires 12-15 digital samples of artwork, answers to two brief questions, and an updated c.v.  

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 nationally-acclaimed contemporary art curator based outside the Puget Sound region selects the two Neddy Artist Awards recipients after conducting studio visits with each of the finalists.

Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition

In addition to cash awards, there is an annual Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition featuring work by both Awardees and Finalists. The Neddy Artist Awards Exhibition, a hallmark of the Cornish College of the Arts calendar, also provides a platform for various public programs and activities.

Neddy Artist Awards Documentation

As part of the award program, a short documentary video is produced on each of the eight artists. Based on interviews with the artists, the videos 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 and arts writers.