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Seeing Artistic Voices


By Mike Emery & Sheryl E. Taylor

Drs. Harriett and Ricardo Romo came to the University of Houston-Downtown with a gift that will keep on giving.

It started with the campus exhibition, “Close to Home: Latinx Art and Identity,” featuring 54 pieces from their extensive art collection. Even though the exhibition concluded its two-month run, the pieces didn’t leave. In fact, the Romos decided to donate more of their extensive exclusive collection of Chicano Art—the largest art gift ever made to UHD, valued at more than $200,000.

“I recall my excitement when I first viewed artwork that represented my community,” said Ricardo Romo. “It was a thrilling experience, and Harriett and I are glad to create that moment for Hispanic students and others at UHD and throughout Houston.”

Art acquired from the Romo’s collection will include a variety of more than 90 prints that will be displayed throughout the University’s campus.

“Great universities engage communities and initiate dialogue on relevant topics,” said UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “We are grateful to receive this gift from the Romos. These works donated to our University will do that and much more. They will inspire current and future students and likely contribute to scholarly activity across academic disciplines, enliven our campus and serve as a distinctive hallmark for our University.”

Mark Cervenka, director of UHD’s O’Kane Gallery, will oversee the procurement and installation of the donated artwork. He familiarized himself with the Romos’ collection and was inspired by the recurring themes of identity and social justice found in these works.

“These are themes that are familiar to so many of our students and relevant to our community,” Cervenka said. “The bold color and compositions are perfect for engaging UHD students, faculty and staff. They will be great additions to our campus.”

Donated works include: Raul Caracoza’s “Young Frida,” colorful variations of a portrait of Frida Kahlo; Ignacio Gomez’s “El Pachuco,” depicting a zoot suited young man proudly standing before the Los Angeles skyline (an image used for posters advertising the play “Zoot Suit”); Alma Lopez’s “La Briosa y La Medusa,” an ode to masked luchadoras; and Patssi Valdez’s “Forbidden Fruit,” offering a vision of an altar adorned by images of the Virgin Mary, fruit, flowers and saintly figures.

The Romos, both longtime educators, have collected art for decades. The first major piece in their collection was Rufino Tamayo’s “The Man With a Hat,” which was obtained while residing in Los Angeles.

Ricardo Romo was the fifth president for The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) from 1999 to 2017. His wife, Harriett Romo, serves as a UTSA professor of sociology and directs the university’s Child & Adolescent Policy Research Institute and UTSA Mexico Center.

Editor's Note: Story reprinted from the lastest issue of UHD Magazine Fall 2019.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.