Village of the Arts to honor founding father Herbie Rose

A small painting of Herbie Rose, walking along a wooded path with his dog Rosey, hangs in the Village of the Arts studio where the award-winning artist brought blank canvasses to life with artist and wife, Graciela Giles, at his side.

The painting was done by Giles and shows Rose walking away, his back to the audience as he seems to get smaller in the shadows of tall, vibrant trees. Giles looks at that painting with new perspective as Rose continues his fight against Alzheimer’s. “It’s like he’s walking away from me,” Giles said.

Giles’ eyes tell the story that Rose is slowly losing his battle. She looked at her painting through tears and said, “It’s a horrible disease. It robs you of your life — and what a wonderful life Herbie lived.”

Rose will be honored at a special event on Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the couple’s village studio at 923 13th St. W. Rose is the founding member of the village, and it was he who first envisioned the Village of the Arts as a live-work arts community in 1986. Giles said her husband’s dream has seen some obstacles over the years. It took some time to get people to buy into the concept, only to be deterred again in the 2008 economic collapse.

“Even though we’ve had some people leave, we’ve had a lot more new people move in with new ideas,” Giles said. “Things are progressing again and in a way, it’s like we have a brand new start. I think Herbie would be proud.”

The idea earned him the title of “honorary mayor of the Village of the Arts” by Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston. Saturday’s Day of Wine and Roses will honor the life and work of Jamaica-born Rose, who opened his first gallery in 1968. Rose eventually moved to Florida and taught at the Ringling School of Art.

Giles is a talented artist in her own right and, at times, her and her husband’s works mimic one another.

“Is that surprising? We spent a lot of years traveling together, and it was always amazing because more often than not, we gravitated toward the same exact thing to paint,” she said.

Saturday’s event will feature Giles and many of Rose’s former students, fellow artists, collectors, fans and friends. Many of Rose’s and Giles’ works will be on sale for discounted prices.

“It’s hard because every one has a memory,” Giles said. “But at some point you have to let go.”

Giles said her husband was much more than an artist.

“He quietly went about his business,” she said. “He never sounded trumpets for himself. He just went out and did it through his art, but he went beyond that in his way with people. He was gentle and kind. All the time, I still get calls and emails asking about him.”

Alzheimer’s will occasionally give a victim a day of clarity, but, she said, “That’s not really happening any more.”

Giles’ love for her husband is apparent, and she could rarely recall a memory without tears welling in her eyes. But when the subject changed to Saturday’s event, a light shined and a smile widened.

“To know that so many of his former students and friends will be here, well, you can only imagine how much that pleases me,” Giles said. “It’s going to be a very special day honoring Herbie and his work. It goes beyond beautiful the work he has created. It’s all about the wonderful things he has done in his lifetime for other people. He’s given so much of himself. He is really loved and appreciated.”