Neddy History

The Neddy at Cornish Honors the Legacy of Ned Behnke

The Neddy at Cornish honors 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.

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.