An essential element of MOCRA’s personality as a museum is the building itself. It began its existence in 1954 as a chapel, part of the Fusz Memorial complex that included dormitories and dining facilities for Jesuits studying philosophy at Saint Louis University.
By 1990, the Jesuits had relocated to a different building nearby, and the University acquired the Fusz Memorial. The dorms and dining hall were quickly repurposed for student housing, but the chapel remained vacant until University President Rev. Lawrence Biondi, S.J., accepted Rev. Terrence Dempsey, S.J.’s proposal to use the space for a museum of contemporary interfaith art. The transformation of Fusz Chapel into MOCRA was soon underway.
Much about the chapel has changed over the years, but for MOCRA’s first fifteen years there has been one constant anchor to the building’s history:
We don’t know exactly when this General Motors Frigidaire was installed in the chapel sacristy. It’s quite likely that is was chugging away for over fifty years without complaint. (Although, we might have neglected to defrost the freezer compartment as frequently as we should have — the frost free models apparently did not show up until 1958).
A cursory glance at the history of the Frigidaire refrigerator is enough to set one thinking about the way that technological innovation and the forces of consumerism carry us from a product that meets a basic need (preventing food spoilage) in a rudimentary fashion, to the sleek, convenience-encrusted appliances of today.
Recently we gave in to the inexorable press of progress. Last week the venerable GM Frigidaire was defrosted for the last time and its plug pulled (likely the first time that has happened since it was first put into service). Its place has been taken by a new Frigidaire, one that is more energy and space efficient and several decibels quieter — yet rather generic in its lines.
The new Frigidaire crest, though it strives to evoke a retro space-age feel, loses any panache when expressed in plastic.
So we bid a fond farewell to our old Frigidaire as we begin stocking the new one (and enjoying the luxury of frost-free living). It’s another little mile marker as we continue into our sixteenth year at MOCRA. It’s also a prompt to pause and remember all who, like that old refrigerator, have labored reliably and consistently, often underappreciated, over the years.
For all who work to fulfill society’s basic needs, and do so with quiet determination, we say thank you. And to all who live with uncertainty in this patch of economic quicksand, we offer support and hope.
Happy Labor Day. May you and yours have a restful holiday. We hope to see you on September 13 for Michael Byron: Cosmic Tears.
— David Brinker, Assistant Director