A capstone gift from the Dolph Simons Jr. family has helped Kansas University’s Spencer Museum of Art fulfill a $1 million challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The gift, along with those from nearly 80 other KU alumni and benefactors, allowed the museum to complete the challenge ahead of the grant’s September deadline.
Included among the gifts to the museum were $200,000 from the Anschutz Foundation of Denver; $100,000 from John T. Stewart III and his wife, Linda Bliss Stewart, of Lawrence and Wellington; and $100,000 from Lavon Brosseau, of Concordia.
Saralyn Reece Hardy, museum director, said it was an honor to be selected for one of the Mellon Foundation’s matching grant opportunities.
“This puts KU in the company of Yale, Duke, the Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard and the University of Chicago,” Hardy said.
The money will be used to increase involvement in interdisciplinary exhibits and educational programs throughout the university.
“I think that this Mellon Initiative establishes a collaborative vision,” Hardy said. “It’s a collaborative vision for the art museum and a collaborative vision for KU.”
Simons, editor of the Lawrence Journal-World and chairman of The World Company, said his family has a long appreciation of everything Helen and Kenneth Spencer did for the university. His parents, Dolph Simons Sr. and Marie Simons, worked closely with Helen Spencer to have the Spencer Museum of Art built at KU.
“The current Simons family members are pleased to continue this long interest by providing funds to help the Spencer meet the match for the Mellon Foundation,” Simons said. “As museum director, Saralyn Reece Hardy is doing excellent work, given her vision and enthusiasm in directing the museum. We’re pleased to be able to play a small role.”
In addition to the $1 million challenge grant, the foundation provided $200,000 to support the program while the funds were being raised.
A portion of the funds has already been used to recruit Celka Straughn, director of academic programs, who has begun to develop the initiative.
An example of the kinds of programming that the initiative will create was last fall’s Media Memes: Images, Technology and Making the News exhibit. Michael Williams, associate professor of journalism, curated the exhibit with assistance from Luke Jordan, lecturer in the School of the Arts, and Straughn.
That gallery examined questions about photography and meaning-making, particularly in 21st century journalism.