KU News Release


May 23, 2011
Contact: Celka Straughn or Bill Woodard, Spencer Museum of Art, 785-864-0136 or 785-864-0142

Spencer Museum of Art announces first recipients of Brosseau Creativity Awards

More Information

LAWRENCE — A haunting short story by an architectural engineering student and a proposal for a multilayered sonic installation by a music composition and theory student are the inaugural recipients of the Jack and Lavon Brosseau Creativity Awards from the Spencer Museum of Art.

Benefactor Lavon Brosseau, a former high school teacher from Concordia, established the prizes last fall to celebrate outstanding creativity among undergraduate students at the University of Kansas.

The Brosseau awards provide cash stipends of approximately $500.

Barbara G. Simpson, a senior who will graduate in fall 2011 with a bachelor’s in architectural engineering and a minor in English, received the Jack and Lavon Brosseau Creative Writing Award for her short fiction piece “Locked Doors.” After graduation, Simpson plans to pursue a master’s degree in structural engineering with an emphasis on seismic design. She says that she developed a passion for fiction and the arts at a young age, participating in everything from reading to writing to painting.

Simpson is daughter of Steven and Nancy Simpson of Wildwood, Mo., and a graduate of Lafayette High School.

Jason E. Charney, a junior studying music theory and music composition, received the Jack and Lavon Brosseau Creativity Award for “Sounding Circle,” a proposal for an interactive sound installation. Charney writes tuneful and triadic music for vocalists and instrumentalists, as well as electroacoustic media. His music has been commissioned by several performers and groups in Kansas, including KU’s Helianthus Ensemble, which premiered his chamber opera “Deep Blue” in April. He is particularly interested in the intersection of art, science and experience. Charney won the 2011 Anthony B. Cius Award for Most Outstanding Student Composer and the 2011 Edward M. Mattila Award for Most Outstanding Electro-Acoustic Composer. For his mentoring counsel, Charney thanks his adviser, Kip Haaheim, associate professor of music theory and music composition.

Charney is son of Gilbert and Marcia Charney of Overland Park and a Blue Valley North High School graduate.

Brosseau, who made the gift to KU Endowment, said she strongly believes in education and in the profound importance of teaching.

“There is a deep and almost sacred beauty in literature and in art,” Brosseau said. “Each may deal with the abstract and each may involve interpretation but each has its own reality that permits the mind to explore and to soar.”

The awards honor creative work that shows risk-taking and reflection, provides new insights, forms a part of critical thinking and generates new ways of understanding. Award recipients were selected by an interdisciplinary review committee.

“These awards serve to further the Spencer’s mission to foster interdisciplinary exploration at the intersection of art, ideas and experience, and we are deeply grateful to Lavon Brosseau for her commitment to these ideals,” said Celka Straughn, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of Academic Programs for the museum.

Of Simpson’s entry, Straughn said, “The committee all agreed that ‘Locked Doors’ demonstrates a strong level of craft, marked by careful narrative detail that creates a sense of the personal, enveloping the reader in the scene while leaving the reader wanting more. They appreciated the high quality of writing and found the story to be quite emotional.”

Of Charney’s entry, Straughn said, “The committee commended Jason’s risk-taking with ‘Sounding Circle’ and the risk-taking his project solicits from participants. ‘Sounding Circle’ realizes a large vision, one that explores interesting ideas and pushes boundaries. Through its mixing of the musical (with nice allusions to classical music's layering of themes) and the auditory (incorporating the everyday human voice), the work reveals a very mature thinking about sound. The committee was also very impressed by his attention to detail in the carefully composed DVD presentation about the piece and his process; they all wished they could experience the piece in a fully realized installation. They agreed that it has a strong potential to draw participants into a meditative and thought-provoking interactive experience.”

For more information, go to the Spencer Museum of Art website.

The Spencer Museum of Art houses an internationally known collection that is deep and diverse, currently numbering approximately 38,000 artworks and artifacts in all media. The collection spans the history of European and American art from ancient to contemporary and includes broad and significant holdings of East Asian art.

Areas of special strength include medieval panel painting and religious sculpture; the Kress Study Collection of early modern Italian painting; 19th century American art and material culture; old master prints; photography; European, East Asian and Indian textiles; American Indian pottery, beadwork and jewelry; African sculpture; Japanese Edo-period prints; and 20th century Chinese painting.


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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