As soon as he arrived as the new chaplain at St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Fr. Blase Schauer, OP, a friara of the Western Dominican Province, began introducing his innovative ideas to encourage greater lay involement in the Holy Mass. His “the Las Cruces Experiment” quickly developed as a dynamic educational program in Catholic culture, doctrine, and liturgy. Winning national awards for its education program, the Center expanded, including not only students from New Mexico State University but also established local artists such as Meinrad Craighead, Mary Ann Lohman, and Sr. Giotto Moots.
Under the banner of “symbol, season, and heritage,” Fr. Schauer guided students, artists and local families in the development of quality Catholic liturgy. The results of this “experiment” brought forth a vibrant new liturgical program entitled “Liturgy in Santa Fe.” Offering workshops across the nation to both lay and religious leaders, Fr. Schauer combined the tradition of sacred art and music with new technological innovations in multimedia to encourage an active involvement in the liturgy that revolved around both the natural and liturgical cycles. He attracted to the Institute prominent thinkers such as Josef Pieper and Pierre-Marie Gy, OP. At its peak, the Liturgy in Santa Fe program boased a collection of over 30,000 35 mm color slides of fine arts, and hundreds of LP recordings of classical music.
The program remained in New Mexico until 1987, when the decision was made to move closer to the Bay Area so as to offer its resources to DSPT and the Graduate Theological Union. After the death of Fr. Schauer, the resources were taken over by Fr. Michael Carey, OP and the late Fr. Michael Morris, OP, friars of the same Western Dominican Province. Under their leadership, the Institute expanded its resources as a research center for scholars interested in Religion and the Arts, amassing artwork and a specilaized library with over 12,000 volumes dedicated to religious and fine art.
In early 2018, the Board of the Institute dissolved the corporatation, and the assets were given to the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology. Since that time, the School has relocated most of the artwork and approximately half of the library to the Vine Street campus for use by students and faculty as part of the mission of Blackfriars Gallery.