BRADENTON -- Excitement hasn't waned since an announcement in March by Jerry and Zoe Von Averkamp that they had purchased a long-vacant home at 1125 12th St. W. and planned to transform it to honor village founder Herbie Rose, a Jamaican-born artist who envisioned the village as a community of artists and residential art galleries.
The 1959 cement block house, next door to their Divine Excess Folk Art gallery, had fallen into disrepair af
ter the owner's death and sat in probate for years.
The goal was to turn a blighted house into a community focal point.
The new name will be the Herbie Rose Village of the Arts Gallery and Gardens, designed and named to encourage visitors to pass through the gallery and gardens en route to the village's other artistic attractions.
The once abandoned structure, with a tree growing out of the kitchen roof, broken windows, stolen copper plumbing and years of rain pouring into the home, has come a long way since March. It is slated for a grand opening Oct. 4 to kick off the arts season with the season's first artwalk.
Couple see home's potential
Inside the home, the couple initially made several unpleasant surprises but slowly began to see the potential of a 1959 home -- considered to be quite new in a community with 1920s-style wooden bungalows.
The original turquoise bathroom tile is still intact, and the original owner had upgraded the floors and appliances just prior to his death, making for a much easier interior transition.
In the grand style that is the Village of the Arts, local artists will have a big impact on the final touches, including the outside with decorated porcelain garden edging and metal palm tree sculptures. Inside, village resident and artist Alfredo Garcia is donating Mexican tiles for the kitchen, and interior painting will begin in early July.
On Tuesday, the Von Averkamps received an $8,700 building and site enhancement grant from the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority to do outside improvements. The DDA budgets approximately $50,000 a year for the program.
"Numerous people have taken advantage of this grant program over the years," said DDA Executive Director David Gustafson. "It's a reinvestment of dollars back into the community, and when you get right down to it, that's our job. The Von Averkamps are pillars in the village. They never take a 'sky is falling' approach to concerns. They simply ask how it can be resolved."
Zoe Van Averkamp said the money will go toward new doors, hurricane windows, a white aluminum picket fence and exterior paint that will blend the once "beige blight" into a periwinkle blue, celery green and red delight.
The original goal also was to provide the Artists Guild of Manatee their first official office space so they would have an address they can use to apply for grants to further enhance the goals of the village.
Home for Artist Guild
Zoe Van Averkamp said the Guild will have a home in the new gallery upon completion.
Kurt D. Lee was the former owner of the house and loved family gatherings, especially at Thanksgiving. Lee was an ill man but sent out the invitations to his family to meet at his house for Thanksgiving Day, where he was planning a feast. When the family arrived for the holiday dinner about seven years ago, they found Lee dead in his chair.
Seven years passed with all of Lee's furnishings and belongings still in the home, and his family never returned until a March story in the Bradenton Herald told of the plans for Lee's former home.
"Two weeks after the article ran an elderly couple came walking up," said Zoe Van Averkamp. "He was very frail, and his wife was hanging onto him as best she could, and he had a copy of the article in his pocket. They introduced themselves as Kurt's parents and he said, 'This was my son's home.' "
The connection to the goal of the house began to unfold as Kurt's mother explained that she was a student of Rose and how Lee loved the village, and that his house was his pride and joy.
Tears welled up in Zoe Van Averkamp's eyes as she recalled the tender moment when Lee's father said, "Our son would be so proud and so happy with all that you are doing."
She knew then that she and her husband had been called to do something important for the village. After that, there were no more words needed to describe their mission.
"What more is there to say after all that? Nothing," she said.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.