MOCRA Mission and Institutional History
MOCRA is the world's first interfaith museum of contemporary art that engages religious and spiritual themes. MOCRA is dedicated to the ongoing dialogue between contemporary artists and the world's faith traditions, and to serving as a forum for interfaith understanding. In a time when religion is viewed by many in exclusive ways, MOCRA intends to be inclusive and embracing, a center for healing and reconciliation.
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For over 35 years, the Fusz Memorial Chapel was used by Jesuits studying philosophy at Saint Louis University, but in 1990 the Jesuits relocated to smaller residences near the campus. In Spring 1991 Saint Louis University President Rev. Lawrence Biondi, S.J., gave permission to Rev. Terrence Dempsey, S.J., to adapt the chapel for use as a museum devoted to the presentation of contemporary religious art. A thoughtful renovation made the chapel a suitable and noteworthy space for displaying art while honoring the original purpose and architecture of the building. Since then, the museum has mounted nearly 50 exhibitions involving more than 100 artists.
MOCRA's exhibitions have demonstrated the range of contemporary religious and spiritual artistic expression, presenting the work of artists who have attained recognition regionally, nationally, and internationally. Some work overtly pays homage to particular faith traditions while other works are more oblique but nonetheless spiritual. The media employed have varied from traditional materials such as oil, acrylic, and ink, to non-traditional materials such as blood, earth, mylar, and helium. Exhibitions at MOCRA have been enhanced by numerous conferences, lectures, and performances involving major theologians, visual artists, art historians, museum directors and curators, doctors, lawyers, philosophers, psychologists, choreographers, and musicians.
MOCRA has received critical acclaim in the local, national and international media, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Art News, Art Papers, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Art Journal, the San Jose Mercury News, The Los Angeles Times, Austin American-Statesman, America, The Tablet, and The New York Times. In December 2002, MOCRA was named by USA Today as one of America's top 10 religious museums.
MOCRA was ahead of its time in recognizing the interest among contemporary artists in the religious and spiritual dimensions and in providing a permanent forum for exploring and supporting that interest. In a time when religion is a predominant topic in societies throughout the world -- often generating more heat than light -- MOCRA continues to foster dialogue that seeks deeper understanding of others' traditions and greater appreciation of one's own.