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MOCRA Presents Exhibition Exploring Faith and Spirituality, Featuring Artists Who Utilize Everyday Materials, Craft Production

by Maggie Rotermund
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Maggie Rotermund
Senior Media Relations Specialist

Reserved for members of the media.

The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) at Saint Louis University presents Open Hands: Crafting the Spiritual. Open Hands contains works by six artists who use everyday materials, found objects, and elements of craft production to explore issues related to faith and spirituality, personal and cultural identity, and tradition and community.

Open Hands

Top row, from left: Michael Velliquette, Our newly awakened powers cry out for unlimited fulfillment (detail), 2020. Courtesy of the artist; Beliz Iristay, Where Is He? (detail), 2017. Courtesy of the artist; Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Chalice (detail), ca. 1990s. Courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Fine Art, NY.

Bottom row, from left: Gabriel Garcia Roman, José Villalobos (detail), 2023. Courtesy of the artist. Jenelle Esparza, Landscape Tapestry 4 (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Gwendolyn A. Magee, Full of the Faith (detail), 2004. Courtesy of the Estate of Gwendolyn A. Magee. Photo © Roland L. Freeman.

Open Hands includes artworks made from clay, fiber, fabric, photographs, paper, and tin foil. Artists whose works are showcased include Jenelle Esparza (Texas), Gabriel Garcia Roman (New York), Beliz Iristay (California/Mexico), Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt (New York), Gwendolyn A. Magee (Mississippi), and Michael Velliquette (Wisconsin). The exhibition will be on display at MOCRA through May 19. 

Check out the Open Hands Gallery Guide for more information about the art and artists. 

Open Hands: Crafting the Spiritual is organized for MOCRA by René Paul Barilleaux, head of curatorial affairs at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.

Upcoming Events

René Paul Barilleaux: Crafting a Curatorial Practice 

Sunday, April 14, 2 p.m. 

Open Hands curator René Paul Barilleaux will trace the evolution of his curatorial practice over 40 years, including a sustained interest in everyday and craft materials and the handmade. Barilleaux connects his initial fondness for traditional craftwork to the stained glass and mosaics he encountered as a child in his parish church. 
The talk is free and open to the public. It will be held at 2 p.m. in Anheuser-Busch Auditorium, followed by a reception at MOCRA.

Location and Parking Information

Curator Tour: Spirituality, Culture, and Identity with MOCRA and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation 

Friday, May 17, 5-7 p.m. 

Walk and talk with David Brinker, director of MOCRA, and Pulitzer Curatorial staff in a discussion of themes of spirituality, culture, and identity reflected in two current exhibitions: MOCRA’s Open Hands: Crafting the Spiritual and the Pulitzer’s Delcy Morelos: Interwoven

The group starts at MOCRA and walks to the Pulitzer to end the evening. Light refreshments will be served after the talk.

Register Here

MOCRA Spotlight Tours

These 30-minute tours each focus on two of the artists featured in Open Hands: Crafting the Spiritual. Spotlight Tours are free and open to the public.  

Tour Times and Additional Information 


Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) is the first museum to bring an interfaith focus to contemporary art. Officially opened in 1993, MOCRA is located in a spacious chapel that was used for over 35 years by Jesuits studying philosophy at Saint Louis University. Through exhibitions, collections, and educational programs, MOCRA highlights and explores 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.

MOCRA is located at 3700 West Pine Blvd. on the campus of Saint Louis University. Museum hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 314-977-7170 or visit