William Gerald “Gerry” Riggs was born on Dec. 12, 1950, in Frankfurt, West Germany to Lt. Col. William G. Riggs and Billie J. Johnson Riggs, and died on Jan. 3, 2009, in Pagosa Springs, CO.
Gerry was a champion of art and artists, retiring after 15 years as Assistant Professor and Director of the Gallery of Contemporary Art (GCA) at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) in 2006, where he had a tremendous impact on the art community, encouraging, mentoring and challenging artists at all levels with his presence and support.
Gerry was a leading activist in the arts scene in Colorado and Oklahoma and was known for staging impactful art events of regional and national scope. He took a vital interest in linking people and organizations wherever he operated. He was an effective leader and instrumental in forging ties between the GCA, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Business of Art Center in Manitou Springs. Gerry was a sought after juror for art competitions and an esteemed advisor for artists and arts organizations throughout Colorado during his tenure at the Gallery of Contemporary Art and following.
Gerry graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Art, and a Masters of Liberal Studies with Museum Emphasis. He held several curator positions at the Oklahoma Art Center from 1978-1987. Gerry also served as the Curator of Fine Art and Exhibition Coordinator at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, and as Director/Curator for the C.B. Goddard Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Ardmore, OK.
Gerry’s professional accomplishments include the installation design for over 400 exhibitions. He is credited for transforming the gallery at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs into one of the region’s most important art spaces, and the only one dedicated to contemporary art, whether regional or from halfway around the world. He was a member of the American Association of Museums, and the AAM Museum Advocacy Team.
One of Gerry’s long-term projects was the Heller Ranch Center for Arts and Humanities on the UCCS campus which, when completed, will provide high-quality classroom, gallery, and studio space for local and visiting artists.
Gerry’s passions in retirement were skiing, especially steep and deep powder, at his beloved Wolf Creek (WC) Ski Area, music, art, and sharing life and love with his friends and family. Gerry played drums with several bands in the Pagosa Springs and South Fork areas over the past three years and strongly supported the annual Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs, jamming with his musician friends old and new.
Gerry’s family built a home in Pagosa Springs over 30 years ago, and since that time, Gerry has spent every winter skiing as many days as possible and skied over 150 annually since retiring. He was a legend at WC and known for the igloos he built as shelters for skiers. He held a high regard for nature and watching the sun go down over the mountains at the end of ski day. Gerry was a member of the Grey Wolf Ski Club and was a Faculty Advisor for the UCCS Snowriders ski club. He was regarded as a true leader and mentor to the Snowriders club members and one “who skied his own line”. Gerry encouraged his fellow skiers the same as he did artists, musicians, students and others to carry on, dream big, aspire to make a difference, and remain compassionate toward others.
Gerry is survived by his uncle and aunt, Donald E. and Lynette Riggs of Bethany, Okla., cousin Phoebe Riggs Key and her husband William T. Key of Oklahoma City, Okla., Michael A. Riggs and wife Bambi Riggs of Piedmont, Okla., and Donnie E. Riggs and wife Genie Riggs of Houston, Texas, and many wonderful relatives and friends at home and abroad. Preceding Gerry in death were his mother Billie, his father Bill, and sister Teresa A. Riggs Carlson.
Friends and family are invited to attend and participate in “A Community Tribute to Gerry Riggs” on Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, beginning at 5 p.m., at the Gallery of Contemporary Art, located on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus.
Persons wishing to contribute to the event are asked to please contact the Tribute Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Gerry Riggs Memorial Scholarship Fund to support students in the UCCS Gallery Management Program (GMP). Contact Margie Teals-Davis at (719) 255-4552; 100 percent of donations will directly support students in the GMP that Gerry expanded, taught and ran during his 15 year tenure.