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Episode 10: MOCRA Memories - The Early Years

Release date: June 12, 2014

In 2013, MOCRA celebrated its twentieth anniversary, a perfect time to talk with people who have been affiliated with the museum over the years: those who had a hand in MOCRA’s genesis, artists who have participated in exhibitions at MOCRA, and other participants in the broader dialogue between contemporary art and religion and spirituality. With "MOCRA Memories" we bring you these conversations and reflections.

Listening Guide

MOCRA Voices on Stitcher MOCRA Voices on iTunes MOCRA Voices on Spotify

Related Episodes

Episode 3: Thomas Sokolowski
Episode 5: Pamela Ambrose and Ena Heller
Episode 8: Mary Reid Brunstrom
Episode 11: Tobi Kahn
Episode 14: MOCRA Memories - Berkeley
Episode 15: MOCRA Memories - Sanctuaries
Episode 17: MOCRA Memories - Consecrations
Episode 20: Pamela Ambrose


Producer: David Brinker
Recording Engineer and Editor: Mike Schrand
Host: Linda Kennedy
Theme and Incidental Music: Stephen James Neale
Listening Guide: David Brinker

Listening Guide


Pamela AmbrosePamela Ambrose has long been interested in the dialogue between religion and contemporary art. She was involved with the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York in its formative years in the 1980s, implementing special events and collector's programs. She also served as director of two prominent New York galleries: the Monique Knowlton Gallery and the Rose Esman Gallery.

Ambrose was the Executive Director of the Samuel Cupples House at Saint Louis University from 1996 to 2004. She has served since 2005 as Director of Cultural Affairs at Loyola University in Chicago and the Founding Director of the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA).

Hear more from Ambrose in a 2013 MOCRA Voices conversation with MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey and museum director Ena Heller covering a range of topics, including the place of religious art museums in the ecosystems of both art and religion, the challenges of presenting art in a spiritual and religious context, and the wide range of responses each director has fielded from visitors and critics alike.


Thomas SokolowskiA native of Chicago, Thomas Sokolowski received his B.A. from the University of Chicago, and earned his master's degree and did doctoral work in art history at New York University, where he specialized in late 17th- and early 18th-century Italian art. In the early 1980s Sokolowski was curator of European painting and sculpture, and later chief curator, at the Chrysler Museum. In 1984 he was named Director of New York University's Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, where he curated a number of important exhibitions. Sokolowski became Director of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1996, a post he held for 14 years. During his tenure at the Warhol, Sokolowski established a reputation for inventiveness in exhibitions and programming, as well as for civic activism. In addition to reaching out to marginalized populations in the Pittsburgh region, the Warhol has produced more than 50 traveling exhibitions that have been shown in over 150 venues worldwide.

In addition to his work in museums, Sokolowski has taught at a number of universities, including New York University, and he is a board member of Visual AIDS. Since he left the Warhol at the end of 2010, Sokolowski has kept up an active schedule as an art historian, consultant, and lecturer.

Hear more from Sokolowski in a 2011 MOCRA Voices interview with MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey, in which they discuss issues related to art and AIDS. Topics include Sokolowski's experiences in presenting some of the earliest exhibitions of art about AIDS, and his role in the creation of the red ribbon for AIDS awareness. Also addressed are Sokolowski's role in introducing Fr. Dempsey to the late artist Adrian Kellard, and Sokolowski's significant role in making several MOCRA exhibitions possible. You can also hear excerpts from Sokolowski's 1994 talk at MOCRA, "The Changing Face of AIDS."


Mary Reid BrunstromIn 1988 Mary Reid Brunstrom founded Austral Gallery in St. Louis. In doing so, she was among the first to introduce work by living Australian artists, including Aboriginal art, to North American audiences through exhibitions, programs, and publications. She was involved with two exhibitions at MOCRA, Ian Friend: The Edge of Belief, and the Utopia Body Paint Collection. After closing Austral Gallery in 2000, Brunstrom embarked on studies in art history. She earned a Masters in Liberal Arts (2005) followed by a Master's in Art History (2006) from Washington University in St. Louis and is currently completing doctoral studies in art/architectural history from the same institution. Her dissertation focuses on 1950s Catholic Church architecture in the Midwest and developing new frameworks for evaluation of mid-century modernist architecture.

Hear more from Brunstrom in a 2014 MOCRA Voices interview with MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey, in which they discuss Brunstrom's experiences introducing contemporary Australian art to St. Louis, her collaborations with MOCRA, and her decision to return to school to pursue studies in art history.


Ted Wood Ted Wood, Professor of Studio Art at Saint Louis University, is a distinguished representational painter, with a particular interest in the human figure and landscape. He has exhibited widely both in the United States and abroad, and in 1983 he was invited to participate in the International Festival of Contemporary Art at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Jeffrey Vaughn Jeffrey Vaughn, Professor of Art at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois, is a painter and photographer who regularly exhibits with the Fischbach Gallery in New York City. Previously he worked at Saint Louis University as an adjunct professor of printmaking, and art installer for MOCRA. Jeff has also photographed the majority of MOCRA's exhibitions and events over the years.

View Vaughn's website here.

See pictures and read more about the conversion of Fusz Memorial Chapel into MOCRA in these MOCRA blog post: "Genesis," "The Artist and Sacred Space," and "Sanctuaries."

Explore the exhibition websites for Sanctuaries: Recovering the Holy in Contemporary Art and Body and Soul: The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.


Tobi KahnTobi Kahn is a New York-based painter, sculptor, and educator, who for thirty years has been steadfast in his commitment to the redemptive possibilities of art. Kahn's art is strongly influenced by his Jewish faith as well as by artists such as Albert Pinkham Ryder, Georgia O'Keefe, Arthur Dove, and Mark Rothko. He was selected as one of nine artists included in the 1985 Guggenheim Museum exhibition, New Horizons in American Art. Since then his work has been shown in over 40 solo exhibitions and over 60 museum and group shows. His works are found in major museums, corporate, and private collections. He has also been commissioned to create contemplative sacred spaces. MOCRA presented two major traveling exhibitions by Kahn. Metamorphoses included paintings evocative of land- and seascapes, and scientific imagery. The second exhibition, Avoda, presented Jewish ceremonial objects Kahn has created for family and friends. Visit Tobi Kahn's website here.

Kahn refers to two significant figures in his artistic career. Peter Selz is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written and organized exhibitions on virtually the entire spectrum of the arts of this century. Selz delivered a 1995 lecture at MOCRA titled "Degenerate Art." Learn more here. Selz also participated in a panel discussion on the work of Irish artist Patrick Graham, titled "Breaking Boundaries: The Art of Patrick Graham." Watch the panel discussion here.

Jane Blaffer Owen (1915-2010) was a generous and influential patron of contemporary art. Although she was a significant presence in Houston, she devoted much of her energy and personal resources to the village of New Harmony, Indiana. Beyond simply preserving and restoring historic buildings in the community, she commissioned art and structures from some of the most notable artists and architects of our times, including Philip Johnson, Richard Meier, and Stephen DeStaebler. A sculpture by Tobi Kahn titled Shalev was installed in New Harmony in 1993, with a dedication ceremony led by MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey. Read a remembrance of Jane Owen on the MOCRA blog.


Jim MorphesisJim Morphesis lives and works in Los Angeles, California. His paintings have been shown in forty-two solo exhibitions and in more that one hundred and thirty invitational group exhibitions in museums and galleries that include: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Queens Museum of Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessalonika, Greece. Morphesis' paintings can be seen in the permanent collections of more than twenty-five museums including: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Oakland Museum of California, the Phoenix Museum of Art , the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art in St. Louis and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A forty year survey exhibition of Morphesis' paintings will open at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in January of 2015. Learn more about Morphesis here.

Morphesis mentions several past MOCRA exhibitions, including Sanctuaries: Recovering the Holy in Contemporary Art, Consecrations: The Spiritual in Art in the Time of AIDS, Andy Warhol: Silver Clouds, and Adrian Kellard: The Learned Art of Compassion.