In 1918 Louis Comfort Tiffany established a foundation to operate Laurelton Hall - his estate at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island - as a summer retreat for young artists and craftspeople. Tiffany, son of the founder of the famous New York jewelry store Tiffany & Co., was himself a painter, interior decorator, and renowned innovator in the design of glass objects and windows.
Tiffany died in 1933, but the Laurelton program continued until 1946, when the estate was sold. After the sale of Laurelton, the Foundation changed its purpose from the operation of an artists' retreat to the bestowing of grants to artists. These grants were awarded annually through a competition in painting, sculpture, graphics, and textile design, a range of categories reflecting Tiffany's manifold talents and interests. Each year, hundreds of applicants sent examples of their actual work to the National Academy of Design, for review.
To nurture creative talent, the Foundation in the past initiated grants including: (1) a fine-arts purchase program through which artworks were purchased and donated to institutions; (2) an apprenticeship program enabling young craftspeople to work with masters; and (3) a program of direct grants to young painters and sculptors.
In 1980, the grant programs were consolidated into a biennial competition with the candidates being nominated. Today, the Tiffany Foundation makes monetary awards in painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, video, and craft media, thus continuing the approach of direct grants to artists originally adopted by the trustees in 1946.
Artists cannot apply for a Foundation grant. Instead, award winners are selected from nominees proposed by art professionals throughout the country. The nominees submit visual images and support materials, which are reviewed by a jury composed of a changing roster of artists, critics, and museum professionals as well as the Foundation's trustees. The awards go to the artists whose work shows promise, talent, and individual artistic strength but who have not yet received widespread critical or commercial recognition.
For more information about Louis Comfort Tiffany, please explore the online portal created and supported by the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art: http://www.morsemuseum.org/louis-comfort-tiffany.