A collection of Inuit carvings has been donated to the Missouri Southern State University Art Department by the family of a former faculty member.
Dr. Mel Mosher, a professor emeritus in the Chemistry Department who died in 2010, collected the soapstone carvings along with his wife, Donna, who passed away earlier this year.
“It was probably the late ‘60s or early ‘70s when they started collecting,” said their son Michael Mosher, a Colorado resident who delivered the pieces to the Art Department. “Our mother was from Canada … both of our parents were from the Pacific Northwest, and they really enjoyed this kind of art.
“They would find and purchase them and for long as I can remember, we had pieces in the house.”
The collection of nearly 20 pieces were created by contemporary Inuit artists. Some depict seals, birds, a walrus and other animals, and were created by artists from Canada’s northwest territories.
“My favorite piece is the Inuit with a seal,” Michael Mosher said. “The artists were carving things they would see every day. Some are comical and others are much more serious.”
The works donated to MSSU also include two ebony heads carved by Nigerian artists. Those two pieces will be included in the department’s permanent study collection of African art and artifacts.
Michael Mosher said that he and his brothers – Craig and Tom – each kept one of the pieces that had sentimental value and donated the rest to Missouri Southern. The university had previously showcased the works in the Spiva Gallery during the 2009 Canada Semester.
“It just made sense for other people to be able to enjoy them,” Michael Mosher said. “Dad would appreciate that other people will be able to look at them.”
Frank Pishkur, chair of the Art Department, said the gift adds more diversity to the department’s holdings.
“The Inuit works are made from soapstone, which is fairly soft compared other stones,” he said. “The softest grades feature a slick surface that feel like soap.
“Most of the pieces are quasi-contemporary … from within the last century. We don’t have a lot of contemporary holdings, so it’s exciting to be able to have these on campus.”
Dr. Mel Mosher joined the Missouri Southern faculty in 1974 as half-time Assistant Director of the then Missouri Southern State College Regional Crime Laboratory, and half-time assistant professor of chemistry. In 1998, he moved to a full-time position in the Physical Science Department as a professor of chemistry.
Among the courses he taught were organic chemistry, general chemistry and introductory (allied health chemistry), and mentored students on their independent research projects. Over the years, his undergraduate students published nine papers and gave more than 70 presentations at national and regional meetings.
“Dr. Mosher was my mentor,” said Dr. Marsi Archer, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “He cared about his students and went out of his way to make sure they would succeed. He really helped me become a better teacher, and answered all of my questions as I was beginning to teach.
The Dr. Melvyn W. Mosher Memorial Scholarship was formed after his death in 2010 to provide financial support for students studying chemistry, biochemistry or medical technology.
“After he passed, I was on the scholarship committee,” said Archer. “I was always looking for the underdog … a student who struggled but was making it. That’s the kind of student he would want to see succeed.”