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Announcing the Grand Prize Winners of the 2019 Neddy at Cornish Artist Awards

Seattle artists Inye Wokoma and Aramis O. Hamer will each receive $25,000 in unrestricted funds

Seattle– The grand prize winners of the 2019 Neddy at Cornish were announced on Monday, September 30. Seattle artists Inye Wokoma (Open Media) and Aramis O. Hamer (Painting) will each receive $25,000 in unrestricted funds.

The Neddy at Cornish, founded in 1996 as a tribute to the life and work of Ned Behnke, is an annual award program administered by Cornish College of the Arts. It is a free and open call application to artists living and working in the greater Puget Sound region.

In addition to Wokoma and Hamer, six runners-up will each receive $2,000. All eight artists will be featured in the 2019 Neddy at Cornish exhibition, Inherent Visions, opening November 1 at the Cornish Playhouse.

“Each of the 2019 Neddy artists has such distinct practice and unique strengths, that it was a very difficult decision,” said National Juror Jessica Hong. “But after speaking with all the finalists, learning more about Seattle, and deliberating internally, it seemed to me like making space is critically necessary for artists and the broader cultural ecosystem and these two artists are doing so explicitly.”

Jessica Hong’s Statement About Inye Wokoma

“Inye Wokoma’s photographic images and filmic works explore the potency and at times tenuous concepts of relationships, home, and community. Using his personal experiences as a starting point and speaking to broader experiences of Black communities in Seattle and beyond, he poignantly dives into difficult yet timely issues of migration and displacement while productively exploring the consequences, its possibilities, and what can be made new.

Alongside Wokoma’s individual artistic practice, much of his work is about creating space for others. I was particularly struck by the arts center he co-founded, Wa Na Wari (“Our Home” in the Kalabari language of Southern Nigeria), which has become a large part of his practice.

Located in his grandfather’s home in Seattle’s Central District in which he grew up, the space highlights a multifaceted range of Black voices to share their stories, creations, and expressions (from oral histories, exhibitions, talks, performances, workshops, gatherings) to all publics.

Wokoma understands the power that space can provide, so has decided to open up his family home and give it back to the public for greater impact. Art is even accessible from street view. Everyone is welcome at Wa Na Wari, which I experienced firsthand while visiting Seattle. In a city where redlining has excluded particular demographics, including Black communities, from creating roots and one that is currently going through major (re)development, Wa Na Wari is not only an important space but a necessary one.”

Jessica Hong’s Statement About Aramis O. Hamer

“Aramis Hamer’s vivid portraits celebrate black women and, in her words, ‘divine femininity.’ Her incorporation of the cosmological is meant to elevate, even revere the figures represented. Along with the vibrancy of her compositions, I was taken by her genuine belief in the power of the arts and how she wishes to express that in her canvases as well as her pedagogical practice.

Through teaching and organizing workshops, she has a distinct approach to community-based art practice, as the attendees get to create their own pigments and are given space to freely and uniquely express themselves.

In a city that seems to have limited space (or at the very least is in a shifting cultural landscape) for artists and makers, Hamer’s energy, spirit, along with her strong faith in the arts is needed to not only sustain the arts but to propel it forward. As she writes in her artist’s statement, ‘Liberation is my life’s work—to free myself from the chains that could hold me back mentally, physically, and spiritually. My paintbrush reminds me of the creative power I have within the canvas—and life. As I take this journey to freedom, I hope to inspire others along the way.’

Art should be a space for people to create, convene, and inspire, and through her work and workshops, Hamer is realizing the expansive potential of what art can do and be.

The 2019 Neddy at Cornish Award Finalists

Six additional artists (three in Painting and three in Open Media) were selected as 2019’s Neddy at Cornish finalists. In Painting: Tatiana Garmendia, Emily Gherard, and Amanda Knowles. In Open Media: Jite Agbro, Romson Regarde Bustillo, and Julia Freeman.

About National Juror Jessica Hong

Jessica Hong  is Associate Curator of Global Contemporary Art—the first to fill this position—at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. Before joining the Hood, Hong was assistant curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, where she organized exhibitions including Arthur Jafa: Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death (2018) and the ICA’s presentation of We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 (2018). Prior to the ICA, she was part of the inaugural team of the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art that launched the renovated Harvard Art Museums. Hong was previously based in New York and held curatorial positions at Independent Curators International (ICI), SculptureCenter, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She has written editorial pieces for BOMB Magazine, ICA/Boston, SculptureCenter publications, among others. Additionally, she served as ICI’s external evaluator for all curatorial programs, as visiting critic for Residency Unlimited (NY), and as a juror on numerous panels and fellowship programs. Hong received her M.A. in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and B.A. in art history from Barnard College, Columbia University.

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