Village of the Arts founder Herbie Rose dies at age 87

Prominent Bradenton artist Herbie Rose, who is widely considered the founder of the Village of the Arts, passed away Tuesday night after a prolonged illness. He was 87.

Mr. Rose opened his first gallery in the neighborhood that is now the Village of the Arts more than 30 years ago. He was still revered as the village’s founding father — Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston named Rose the village’s honorary mayor — and he was regarded as one of Bradenton’s best and best-loved artists.

He was known for vibrant works washed in tropical colors.

“When I’m creating I try to tell a story, the season, the weather, putting the viewer in my shoes, surprising the eyes with color,” Mr. Rose said in an interview with the Bradenton Herald several years ago. “Most of all, I want to show the love that I am experiencing.”

Mr. Rose was born in Jamaica in 1930. According to his biography on his studio’s website, he graduated cum laude from the New York Phoenix School of Design and took post-graduate courses at Pratt Institute. He worked in advertising before he opened his first gallery, in Jamaica. He came to Bradenton in the mid 1980s.

He is survived by his wife of more than 20 years, Graciela Giles, who operates the Rose-Giles Studio, 923 13th St. W., in the Village of the Arts.

“He was an amazing, amazing man,” she said. “He will be missed.”

Jean G. Farmer, the owner of Fun Girl Art in the village, had the chance to meet Rose. He was already gravely ill, but she still found him “joyful.” Even among people who didn’t know him, Farmer said, Mr. Rose remains a revered figure in the Village of the Arts.

Mr. Rose did not originate the idea for the Village of the Arts, but when civic leaders first floated the idea of turning the neighborhood into an arts enclave, people rallied around him.

“He and Graciela were already living in the neighborhood,” said Carrie Price Whaley, a friend of Mr. Rose and the co-owner of Yoga Arts in the village. “He could get things done, but he was very low-key. He became the leader because he was already a respected artist.”

Whaley is a longtime Bradenton resident, and she recalled that long before anyone had ever proposed a Village of the Arts, Mr. Rose was known for creating images of private homes around town.

“It seemed like everyone who was anyone had a picture painted by him of their house, in their house,” she said. “He’d just sit outside people’s houses, painting them. He was known throughout the area as a great artist.”

Mr. Rose often taught painting at his studio in the village. Whaley worked at a cafe in the neighborhood before she opened her business, and sometimes Mr. Rose would come into the cafe with some of his students.

“You could tell that just by looking at them that they adored him,” she said.

Giles said she will not hold a public memorial immediately.

“When our heads clear, I want to have a big celebration of his life in the Village of the Arts,” she said. “I have given this some thought in the past. There will be music and dancing, a real celebration. I just don’t have the details yet.”

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear

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