An architects rendering of what the new sculpture facility at Cornishs Visual Arts Complex will look like.
  • An architect's rendering of what the new sculpture facility at Cornish's Visual Arts Complex will look like.
Jon and Mary Shirley, the major donors behind Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, now have given $2 million to Cornish College of the Arts for the creation of a Visual Arts Complex at 1000 Virginia Street.

The complex will house studios for seniors—their BFA exhibition will be there in May—and, best of all, a new sculpture center.

The current sculpture facility has been a bane. It's a cramped 6,000 square feet in the basement of the main campus building at 1000 Lenora (one block away from 1000 Virginia), right next to the art gallery. (One makes noise, the other wants quiet.) The planned new sculpture center will be 28,000 square feet. And moving the space to another building will make it so the current, modest art gallery can expand.

To complete the Visual Arts Complex at 1000 Virginia, the college plans to build another floor on top of the two existing. The capital campaign is $12.2 million, almost half of which has been raised (including the Shirleys' gift). Completion depends on when the money comes in.

Jon Shirley was president and COO of Microsoft in the 1980s, and Jon and Mary have accrued an impressive collection of art. (This humongous early Chuck Close nude may be my favorite.) Their Alexander Calders were seen at SAM last year.

In other Cornish news this week, the Neddy Awards (given to two artists per year in honor of the late Ned Behnke), administered for seven years by Tacoma Art Museum, will now be handled by the college.

Cornish will introduce several major changes to the program in 2012. The selection process, previously by nomination, will now commence with an open call for applications. The individual grant award amount has been raised to $25,000 from $15,000. In addition to an award in painting, the second award will not be restricted by medium; rather it will be open to any medium or combination of media grounded in the visual arts.

Cornish will continue the practice of celebrating the awarded artists and finalists in an annual Neddy exhibition.