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Rosa de la Cruz, one of the great champions of Miami’s cultural community and a dear friend, passed away this weekend. Rosa’s breathtaking legacy includes a slew of lessons on how to create meaning in life.

Like all great pioneers, her influence is both visible and invisible. The most obvious legacy is family, and her enduring marriage to Carlos, their five children and her wide circle of friends is a testament to her character. 

But Rosa’s public legacy is no less impressive. Unseen but keenly felt are the consequences of things Rosa set in motion decades ago. In the early years of Art Basel Miami Beach, when the show’s blockbuster success was not a foregone conclusion, the de la Cruz family established a tradition of opening their home on Key Biscayne to the public during the fair. Friends would patiently explain to Rosa that having thousands of people visit their residential neighborhood over 48 hours wasn’t a great idea. She would explain, perhaps less patiently, why it was. It is not an exaggeration to say that that the tens of thousands of art lovers who were lucky enough to find themselves in that place of a December day were inspired, engaged, provoked, uplifted and – more importantly – invited to join the growing arts community that today defines Miami.

She was an early believer in the destiny of the Design District and in the aughts, began an eight-year collaboration with me to create the non-profit Moore Space in the building of the same name. Rosa treated the space as a kunsthalle, which presented exhibitions, commissioned artists’ projects and offered a robust educational program of lectures and tours. But Rosa felt that as Miami grew, its appetite for culture would keep pace. Thus, the de la Cruz Collection museum was born. It houses extraordinary contemporary art of sweeping breadth and depth – which Rosa amassed with her keen curatorial eye – in a permanent 30,000 square foot home in the District, a gift from Carlos and Rosa to the public. For Rosa’s early enthusiasm, I will be forever grateful.

Rosa was democratic in championing artists both local and international, established and emerging. Any visit to their home or to the de la Cruz Collection meant that you might see a work by Su Su or Christina Quarles next to pieces by Wilfredo Lam, Salvador Dali or Ana Mendieta. For her, great art was great art – and whether popular opinion had caught up with her vision was entirely irrelevant.

Rosa’s fierce determination to forge a path and not follow one, the bravery and the generosity of spirit she possessed – those are rare qualities. She will be missed.

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