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About MOCRA

Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art is the first museum to bring an interfaith focus to contemporary art.

Through exhibitions, collections and educational programs, MOCRA highlights and explore the ways contemporary visual artists engage the religious and spiritual dimensions. MOCRA serves the diverse Saint Louis University community, and the wider public, by facilitating personal discovery, experience, and inspiration, while contributing to a wider culture of interfaith encounter and dialogue.

Compelling exhibitions, collection, and programs 

From its very first exhibition in 1993, MOCRA has established a reputation for presenting compelling work from both established and emerging artists who represent a diverse range of viewpoints, expressions, and media. Whether sensitively exploring difficult subjects, or sharing the unexpected delight of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds, MOCRA’s exhibitions continue to challenge and inspire audiences. 

MOCRA’s exhibitions are anchored on a well-regarded collection that includes works by an international roster of artists, including Romare Bearden, Lore Bert, Frederick J. Brown, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Michael David, Luis González-Palma, Patrick Graham, DoDo Jin Ming, Jim Morphesis, Daniel Ramirez, and Shahzia Sikander.

MOCRA supports the academic pursuits of SLU students and faculty, and enriches the experience and lifelong learning of our broader audiences. Lectures, symposia, performances, and other public presentations complement MOCRA’s exhibitions. The MOCRA Voices podcast highlights thinkers and practitioners at the intersections of contemporary art, religion, and spirituality, while the MOCRA blog features essays, reflections, and glimpses behind the scenes.

Rooted in Ignatian mission

As a Jesuit school, SLU is grounded in the insights of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Central to Ignatian spirituality is the belief that God may be found in all things—that we can encounter the divine in all aspects of our lives. Accordingly, MOCRA operates from an ample, generous understanding of the religious and spiritual dimensions, and seeks to create a welcoming and service-oriented atmosphere for all. 

A singular vision and many helping hands

MOCRA has its origins in the doctoral dissertation of Founding Director Emeritus Terrence Dempsey, S.J., which profiled eleven of the hundreds of contemporary artists Dempsey had identified engaging with the religious dimensions in their work. His work was guided by his mentors (art historian Jane Daggett Dillenberger, art historian and curator Peter Selz, and theologian and art historian John Dillenberger), and encouraged and assisted by like-minded curators and artists.

Dempsey joined the Art History faculty at SLU in 1990. Encouraged by another mentor, Maurice McNamee, S.J., Dempsey proposed to repurpose the Fusz Memorial Chapel as a museum. The proposal was approved by SLU President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., and, following an extensive and thoughtful renovation, MOCRA opened on February 14, 1993.

Learn more about the history of MOCRA in the MOCRA Voices podcast:

Episode 14: MOCRA Memories - Berkeley
Episode 10: MOCRA Memories - The Early Years
Episode 15: MOCRA Memories - Sanctuaries

. . . and on the MOCRA blog:

“Genesis”
“The Artist and Sacred Space”
“Sanctuaries”