Monday, September 22, 2008

Desegregation of the spirit at SLU

When I think of St. Louis as a "Confluence City," it reflects both my personal reality (knowing and loving all sorts of people around here) and a piece of desperate wishful thinking, since I know (we all know) that St. Louis needs much, much more desegregation of street, school and soul.

Here is one guy on the right path: Terry Dempsey, otherwise known as Terrence E. Dempsey, S.J., founder and director of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art on the campus of Saint Louis University.

I sketched (Terry) badly yesterday as he gave welcoming remarks at the opening of MOCRA's 15th anniversary exhibition, the divine Pursuit of the Spirit, and then had him sign my crummy sketch.

Terry's curatorial approach is profoundly "confluence." He founded the first musuem of contemporary religious art that opens its doors to work from all faiths. As remarkably, in a town known for freezing out and demeaning its local artists (sometimes even after they have rung the bell in other, bigger, better art markets!), Terry mixes the international with the national with the local. He does this routinely and without fuss.

To wit: in the new show, there stood eternal religious classics by George Rouault, right beside a piece by the local artist (and my old friend) Belinda Lee that echoes Rouault.

And: in his remarks, he called attention to the local artists in the house (Jon Cournoyer was one) and all but begged his guests to engage these artists in conversation about their work.

As I said to Terry when I requested his card, "I put you on the list of people St. Louis needs more of."

I have a mouthful of pain following oral surgery, but will have much more to say about this special show before it comes down.

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