Ricardo Viera, Lehigh University Art Gallery’s director for 44 years, passed away on April 1 after suffering a cardiac arrest at his home in Miami Beach, Florida, according to an email sent to Lehigh students on April 16. He was 75 years old.
Viera first arrived at Lehigh in 1974 as the gallery’s director and chief curator, helping amass a collection of over 15,000 works of art by the time he retired in 2018.
A proponent of Latin American Art and visual literacy, Viera leaves behind a legacy and history at the university. In his time at Lehigh, Viera helped establish a visual laboratory and teaching collection program, increasing the collection from 2,500 objects, according to Lehigh Communications.
Viera also created a national collection of Latin American works and spent time teaching courses in museum and curatorial studies, the history of photography, visual thinking strategies and public art.
Born in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, Viera emigrated to the United States when he was 17 years old in a mass exodus of over 14,000 minors who left Cuba between 1960-1962, according to Lehigh Communications.
Viera subsequently received scholarships to study visual art, eventually receiving a diploma from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from Tufts University.
Viera’s art has been exhibited at multiple international galleries and museums. Throughout his career, Viera curated over 100 thematic and visual exhibitions with works from local, national and international artists, according to Lehigh Communications.
As a multimedia artist, Viera’s craft ranged from drawing and painting to photography to printmaking. He was co-founder of the EatArt installation.
Lehigh will be organizing a memorial service to mourn his death and celebrate his accomplishments. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony will be held later this year in the Lehigh Valley, according to the email. The date is not yet determined.