Remembering Ricardo Viera, an Innovator for Visual Literacy

April 17, 2020 11:33AM

Ricardo Viera, an artist, curator and scholar who led Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG) for 44 years and who grew the university’s holdings to a world-class collection of more than 15,000 works of art, passed away April 1 at his home in Miami Beach. Viera died after suffering a cardiac arrest, his family said.

Viera, an innovator for visual literacy and an advocate for Latin American art, retired from Lehigh in 2018, leaving a rich legacy in the arts. He had first arrived at the university in 1974, and as the director and chief curator of LUAG, he established a visual laboratory and teaching collection program, expanding the collection from 2,500 objects. During his tenure, he also established a nationally recognized collection of Latino and Latin American works on paper, photography and video, and he taught courses in museum and curatorial studies, special topics in the history of photography, public art and visual thinking strategies.

His passion for art was obvious in both his demeanor and the exhibitions he oversaw. Whenever he spoke about the educational aspect of LUAG’s work, he would become particularly enthusiastic. “We don’t collect objects. We collect ideas,” he said in an interview in 2017. “We are not here to preach one thing, to interpret things one way. We are here to expose [people] to things that in our judgment have a certain kind of quality.”

A true Renaissance man, Viera was an accomplished chef, Bonsai horticulturist and a malacologist. He had a deep knowledge and appreciation of music, mainly opera, and was himself a gifted tenor. But he mostly loved artists, and he reveled in the opportunity to discover and promote their work and art. He was guided by the belief that all individuals are works of art, and he was as generous as he was generative.

Lehigh will organize a memorial service to mourn his death and celebrate his life. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it will be held later this year in the Lehigh Valley.

To read more about Viera's passion for the arts and his lifetime of contributions to Lehigh please follow this link: 

Those who wish to contribute a gift in memory of Ricardo Viera may do so at Gifts will be used to support Latin American artists and photographers.