For 25 years, The Arts Foundation has given opportunities to artists, designers, poets and choreographers at the start of their careers. Wayne McGregor, writer Ali Smith, poet Alice Oswald and artist Alex Hartley have all benefited from the annual award, which is known as London’s ‘honest’ art prize, because of its unassuming nature. ‘It asks and expects nothing of its winners’, says Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre and winner of an Arts Foundation bursary in 2002. ‘It just says “go out and enjoy”.’

This year, two awards (each worth £10,000) were made possible by The David Collins Foundation, which was set up in 2016 to honour the legacy of late architect and designer David Collins. The David Collins Foundation who began supporting the awards last year, sponsoring Max Frommeld as the winner of the Furniture Design category. As a special tribute to the awards 25th year, Frommeld has been invited back (along with 15 previous winners) to nominate their favourite applicant – an apt way of celebrating the awards’ quarter-century.

Each nominee will receive £1,000, while five of the most promising are selected as the overall winners, as chosen by a panel of expert judges, including Hans Ulrich Obrist, Alice Rawsthorn and Julian Isaacs. It was announced that the two fellowships supported by The David Collins Foundation went to glass blower Jochen Holz (nominated by Max Frommeld), and choreographer Alex Baczynski-Jenkins (nominated by illustrator Slawa Harasymovicz).

We caught up with Holz and Baczynski-Jenkins to find out what the Arts Foundation grants will mean to them...

Jochen Holz, glass artist

In another life, London-based Glass artist Holz was a scientific lamp worker making glass apparatus. ‘It was all about precision and functionality,’ he says. ‘I only really developed a style during my time at the RCA, after years of following more traditional approach.’

‘The fellowship will give me the freedom to experiment,’ he adds. ‘I would like to undertake a range of colour experiments using enamels and lustres to expand on the limited commercially available existing colour palette tubes. I’d also like to experiment with coloured glass neons, exploring the full range of possibilities, including filling bigger pieces.’

Bridging art, design and installation, his elegant work has ‘the potential to push to a different creative level with the Foundation’s help’, says Frommeld. Indeed, Holz believes awards like this are of the upmost importance. ‘It’s very hard for most artists to be fully engaged in their work and to square this with making a living, so giving creatives supported breathing space can be a really vital contribution.’
  
Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, choreographer

‘The great thing about this type of award is that it’s not a commission. Its important to have time for researching and not thinking immediately about the outcome,’ says Baczynski-Jenkins, whose choreography draws attention to the structures of desire, empathy and queer pleasure. ‘There is a paradoxical relation between inefficiency and efficiency in making art work – having time for non-productive research gives the work more volume and texture in the long term.’

His work, which has been displayed at (and is a perfect fit for) London’s Chisenhale Gallery, was praised by nominator Slawa Harasymovicz as ‘strong, contemporary yet timeless’. Particularly impressive is his eight-minute performance piece Federico, which focuses solely on the hands of two performers. Baczynski-Jenkins describes as ‘a sort of micro-archive of intimate touch’​.

Winning the award compelled Baczynski-Jenkins to offer advice to other aspiring artistic talents: ‘Be honest in your practice and take risks. Remember that art is about offering an experience, and trying to make the world a better place, even through the smallest gestures.’​ It’​s a thought that seems to sum up the attitude of The Art Foundation and its simple, understated – yet utterly life-changing – award ceremony. It concludes by looking forwards, to the possible futures of its nominees and winners. Rufus Norris mutters, ‘Now the fun starts. Let’​s do this.’​