KU Spencer Art Museum announces Brosseau Creativity Award winners

LAWRENCE — A poetry collection by English major Becky Mandelbaum and a site-specific installation by art and art history student Rena Detrixhe are the recipients of the second annual 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 to celebrate outstanding creativity among undergraduate students at the University of Kansas.

The Brosseau awards provide cash stipends of approximately $500; awardees are featured here

Becky Mandelbaum, a Wichita senior majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing, received The Jack and Lavon Brosseau Creativity Award in the writing category for "Love & Un-love Poems," a collection of 12 works that sing with unique voice, humor and bold experimentation.

Rena Detrixhe, a Russell senior studying expanded media and art history, received The Jack and Lavon Brosseau Creativity Award in the diverse media category for "time/tim," a meticulously crafted paper installation in KU’s Art & Design Building that explores concepts of time and space. Detrixhe grew up in western Kansas in a country home several miles north of Russell. A recurring theme in her practice is working in and with nature as a way to understand herself and her environment. Her artwork is strongly influenced by the act of gathering and collecting materials.

Lavon Brosseau, a former high school teacher from Concordia, Kansas, 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 says. “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 evidences 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,” says Celka Straughn, Andrew W. Mellon Director of Academic Programs for the Museum.

Of Mandelbaum’s entry, Straughn says, “The committee not only found her poems enjoyable to read, but also exemplary of what the Brosseau Creativity Awards represent: taking risks and experimenting with new ideas and forms that she makes into her own. The committee commended Becky’s strong lines, their flow and rhythm, and her clear voice within lines, all aspects that merit multiple re-readings. The committee also very much appreciated the humor injected into some of the poems.”

Of Detrixhe’s entry, Straughn says, “The committee commended the work's high quality of craftsmanship and its careful attention to detail, as well as the thoughtful integration of form and concept into a beautifully installed and striking work of art dealing with notions of time, distance, and passages. The committee particularly appreciated her discussion of process and meaning.”

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.