Discover the MGMoA's History
Early Museum PhotoIn 1903, while on a trip to the Holy Land, Fr. Gerrer received a small Egyptian scarab with a goose hieroglyph which is the symbol for “A.” Fr. Gerrer saw this as a sign that he needed to bring art and culture from around the world back to Oklahoma, which was not even a state yet. He started collecting art and artifacts from his travels and displaying them first in the rectory of St. Benedict’s Church in Shawnee, where he was assistant pastor, and later in his painting studio, which was built behind the church. By 1919, he had outgrown his space and displayed these pieces in Benedictine Hall at the recently opened St. Gregory’s High School and College. The museum was truly encyclopedic, patterned after the great museums in Europe, containing everything from taxidermied animals, natural history samples of wood and seashells, weapons from around the world, and art from Renaissance masters.
A few of the Medieval and Renaissance paintingsDuring his lifetime, Fr. Gerrer created two catalogs of his collection– 1933 and 1942. The 1942 catalog lists 218 paintings and 6,347 artifacts. Fr. Gerrer would often trade his own paintings in exchange for pieces for his museum. The time he spent at Notre Dame helped keep him up to date in the art market and introduced him to many generous donors. Fr. Gerrer would be seen most days sitting in the museum working or telling someone who stopped by about these amazing treasures. Fr. Gerrer died in 1946.
Early museum photo of weaponsIn 1957, the museum hired a director, Stephen Gyermek, who renovated the museum and created several new programs for adults and children alike. By 1962, St. Gregory’s High School and College had outgrown its space and desperately needed the rooms that housed the museum. It was determined that the collection would be loaned to the Kirkpatrick Science and Arts Foundation at the Oklahoma City fair grounds until a new building could be built. On August 15, 1977, ground was broken for the new building sponsored by the Mabee Foundation. April 7, 1979 saw the grand opening of the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. An addition was added in 1990 to allow more classroom space.
Newly built Mabee-Gerrer MuseumThe MGMoA is unique in that it did not begin as someone’s personal collection for their home. Fr. Gerrer always wanted to share these treasures with the public. He wanted everyone to experience the same opportunity that he had to see the world. He truly wanted to bring the world to Oklahoma.