The first locals to learn of the recent car crash that killed artist Aimee Cardoso and husband Lucas Cardoso were Aimee’s closest friends, Ariel Davis and Shasta Haubrich.
Davis said an unidentified person at the scene of Friday’s accident in Oklahoma was trying to find anyone in Fort Worth who knew Aimee, and that online search led to Haubrich, likely due to both artists’ connections to the nonprofit Art Tooth.
Davis said the person was seeking someone to take Willow, Aimee’s dog, who survived.
“We were frantically trying to get in touch with Lucas,” Davis continued. “When we called, it went straight to voicemail.”
Davis and Haubrich were able to contact Lucas’ mother, Celia Cardoso, who confirmed the death of her son and daughter-in-law. Aimee, the 32-year-old former tour administrator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and grassroots art show organizer, was bright, funny, and amazingly beautiful inside and out, Davis said.
“She worked tirelessly for other people,” Davis added. “She always showed up for people and was happy to be of service. She wanted to be there for anyone she could.”
Aimee and Lucus moved to Oklahoma City a year ago for Aimee to pursue an MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship. The native Texan who grew up in the Mid-Cities hoped to use her degree to further her career in the arts. She was a consummate presence at the Modern, where she organized and guided tours. Modern chief curator Andrea Karnes said Aimee was loved by everyone at the museum.
“We are all feeling this sudden loss so deeply, and we are grateful for the outpouring of compassion being sent our way,” Karnes said. “Aimee’s openness, friendliness, eagerness, curiosity, and humor made her absolutely irresistible and loved. Lucas also had the gift of connecting with others, sparking laughter and becoming an instant friend. With their passing, the world has lost two radiant souls.”
The Modern’s education director, Terri Thornton, said Aimee’s passion for learning made her an invaluable part of the museum’s team. In between working full-time at the museum, spending time with her husband, and volunteering in the community, Cardoso was a visual artist best known for her smallish portraits of fabric and hands. Davis said the paintings were a reflection of Aimee’s deep Christian faith. Through her website, Cardoso, who earned a BA in studio art from Messiah University in Pennsylvania, described herself as an oil painter who applied techniques from the old masters in contemporary styles. In addition to many group shows, Aimee painted four solo exhibitions: Hope Revealed (2022), Compulsion (2020), Envelop (2016), and Trappings in Divinity (1999).
After three years of service, Aimee stepped down from her position as executive director of Art Tooth in mid-2020 to focus on her art and family. She said the decision did not come lightly.
“Between the shutdown of COVID-19, seeing the injustices of systemic racism, the deaths of those close to me, and other personal events, I found myself sitting and asking some hard questions,” Cardoso wrote in a statement to the Texas art blog Glasstire. “I’m extremely proud of what [Art Tooth has] accomplished over the years (38 exhibitions and 97 events). We are at a critical spot in history and society, and I truly believe we have a foothold in making a change in the city at large.”
Haubrich, who inherited the top job for the nonprofit behind the biannual pArty bus events and other arts-related programs, said Aimee was like a sister.
“We were actually quite opposite,” Haubrich said, “but we had the same passion and drive to care for others for the sake of art. Aimee was a consummate perfectionist and professional. She was essentially the backbone for Art Tooth for the time she was there. Anyone who was lucky enough to really get to know her knew how much she cared about the people in her circle. She also surprised me quite often with her goofy and playful side. They say only the good die young, and I think this tragedy has made that pretty clear.”
Cardoso’s three-year tenure saw a focus on presenting free educational programs, something Davis said likely stemmed from Aimee’s work at the Modern.
“When Aimee came in, we put an emphasis on workshops and teaching artists and arming them with knowledge,” Davis said. “We partnered with Fortress Festival and Visit Fort Worth. Aimee was the force behind all of that.”
Thirty-eight exhibits and 97 events in two years is a whirlwind achievement, but Davis said working with Aimee and Haubrich rarely felt like work.
“Aimee had strengths we didn’t,” Davis said. “We complemented each other so well and were able to kick ass. We enjoyed the friendship we built and the things that were possible when we worked together.”
Photorealist painter Jay Wilkinson, a founding member of Art Tooth, said Aimee will be remembered as the catalyst for much of Fort Worth’s vibrant art scene.
“She brought the community into the museum and the museum into the community,” Wilkinson said, referring specifically to the 2015 pop-up show Exhibitionists that featured employees from the Modern. “I don’t know what Fort Worth would look like without her.”
Aimee’s death, Wilkinson added, brought back memories of another tragic passing, that of folk artist Jeremy Joel in 2020. Aimee and Joel were two of six founding members of Art Tooth.
“She was the antithesis of Jeremy Joel, who was this force of creation that came with chaos,” Wilkinson said. “Aimee was so great at balancing people’s personalities. In the artist community, there are so many cliques and breakups. She was so good at being a part of every group. There was no one who didn’t appreciate her being in their community.”
The kind of camaraderie built during those early DIY shows can never be replaced, Wilkinson said.
Davis said she is going to miss the long road trips that she, Aimee, and Haubrich would take to Austin or the Gulf Coast.
“We started using those road trips to talk about what we wanted and where we wanted to go,” Davis said. “That helped us plan our lives for the next year. We would voice what we wanted to do and then we would all go out and do them. I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss talking to her about our plans and dreams.”
Both Aimee and Lucas, who were married nine years, leave behind large extended families. A fundraiser for the couple can be found at GoFundMe.com by searching “Funeral of Lucas Cardoso and Aimee Cardoso.”
This article has been updated to reflect new information.