(Andrew Rose [right] with a student. Photo courtesy Andrew Rose, 2014)

Entering Andrew Rose’s namesake gallery in Pauahi Tower, leaving the Bishop Street bustle behind, one is enveloped in serene, immaculate whiteness. Hanging on the walls are works by Rose himself—paintings of nebulous colors flaring through the dark blue-blacks of deep space. In his office in the back corner of the gallery, the colorless palette continues, in his shelving, leather chair, desk, and white collared shirt.

As a gallery owner, Rose sells art, but he also helps people create it—as an instructor at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. While his gallery may be a blank slate to showcase works, Rose’s classes focus on the rich colors of the outdoors, and the collections in the museum’s galleries—reflecting a certain versatility that marks his life and philosophy.

This fall Rose is teaching Drawing and Painting from Life, Drawing in the Museum, and Plein Air. These classes are inspired by an Édouard Manet quote Rose learned while he was a graduate student at Pratt Institute: “Let nature be your guide.” Manet’s point was, as Rose explains, “if you go out and study from life, if you go out on the street and draw people, listen, look, and really observe, then you begin to truly understand human nature, which is nature in general, [and that] allows you to paint the truth.” Following that approach, his outdoor classes incorporate the same impressionistic element welcomed by his gallery’s glass doors and white walls: natural light.

Taking time out of his busy schedule, Andrew Rose shed some light on his gallery, current projects, and his ongoing commitment to teaching at the Art School.

With respect to his own art, Rose says, “My work…responds to my experiences as an educator at Linekona, responds to my interest in surfing and hiking, and responds to my interest, in this case in this most recent show, in deep space, and more specifically in all of those themes that, for me, are the central questions of my art in terms of what I want to talk about and the issues that are important to me. I try to share that with my students at Linekona and say, ‘If you’re serious about making your work and you’re compelled to do this, then what’s important to you? What do you want to talk about?’”

What motivates his dedication to the museum’s Art School? “[It] is not just a space where people brush up on their skills; [it’s] is a place where young people get their first introduction to the arts, and where students from different universities and adults and retirees hone their voices. I am privileged to play a part in that and feel very lucky to teach there every week.”

His gallery, which opened in 2011 and includes a roster of more than 20 local artists, “is, in some ways, an extension of that activity, it’s a place where we choose to share people’s vision and voices and interact with the community in both an educational way and a cultural way,” he explains.

Born in California, Rose grew up visiting Hawai‘i every year for about a decade, thanks to parents with a deep “appreciation of the beauty and pervasive culture of the islands.” Added to that affinity is something Rose calls his family’s Jewish “commitment to charitable leadership.” Following some study of Hawaiian language and culture, he found that charity to be comparable with “the value system that is expressed through [the Hawaiian] language, [which is] combined with my familial tradition of engaging with your community and giving back.”

Following his peripatetic upbringing, which rounded out with five years of regular visits to Maui where his father, an investment realtor, owned a condo, Rose headed to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Immediately after graduating with a degree in art history, he found himself back in the islands, stuck between Hawai’i’s ability to either “embrace you with open arms, or chew you up and spit you out like a blowhole,” as he describes it. So he went to Los Angeles, and then to New York, eventually working with photographer Bruce Weber. With Weber, Rose says, he gained “a wonderful introduction to international, big-city, famous artist, commercial work,” like “producing [Weber’s] retrospective with him at the National Portrait Gallery in London as well as working on his book projects…and running his whole archive.” With that experience in hand, Rose was then accepted to Pratt, where he earned double Master’s degrees in fine art and art history. After all that, Rose finally felt ready to return to the islands.

In 2005, Rose called the Art School’s then director Carol Khewhok (now program manager at Shangri La), to inquire about a potential teaching position. He recalls that she replied incredulously, “Why would you leave New York?” Though he couldn’t put it perfectly into words at the time, he knew he was ready to return. A year later he showed up without any guarantees, and fortunately they found him the position he has maintained to this day.

In retrospect, Rose explains how he “realized that Hawai‘i is a place where you can do your dreams and you can make things happen. It’s a very open community. It’s very supportive of the arts, whether they’re performing or visual, music or dance—it’s just an incredibly rich and vibrant supportive arts community. I think that’s fundamental to Hawaiian culture; it comes from a society and culture that values song and dance and story and kapa-making and all of the things that we know as traditional Hawaiian arts that are very fundamental to where we are today in this multilayered society.”

Rose compares his work as an instructor at the Art School to “a very enjoyable and engaging community service that I get an honorarium or stipend for every semester. It’s an equitable trade of time because it’s an important thing, and everyone at Linekona is that way. All the teachers I’ve met, all the students I’ve had are there because they love it, and the teachers give and give and give. People are super engaged, and that’s unique in business, education or nonprofits. There’s a lot of love around there. I think the relationship of teachers to students goes beyond a standard teaching model, because the values there work alongside Hawaiian values, like the concept of kuleana. A lot of teachers there have that sense of responsibility to their students and to the community.”

For an artist brimming with New York metropolitanism, Andrew Rose regards the relatively small city of Honolulu, and the even smaller Honolulu Museum of Art, as “a hidden gem in the Pacific,” even an ideal space in which to learn art.

“People ask me all the time how the Honolulu Museum of Art stacks up,” Rose says. “And I tell people all the time it’s an extraordinary teaching museum. It has a first-class collection for teaching because it hits all the major movements and prime examples of them from around the world and throughout time and it’s packed into this little building that’s one square block! You can see the history of art right here. I think it’s absolutely essential that artists be in front of great examples of artwork. That’s the first step of observing and learning—seeing those examples. When I do my plein air class, we’re out there and we’re actually looking at a real tree, instead of making it from notes. You’re out in the weather in the elements and making an abstraction about what you observe, maybe the influence of the mist that day, the color, the texture, the feeling that you’re out in nature—that influences your palette. So it’s absolutely essential to get students out in front of great examples of art and into nature. That’s what it means fundamentally to take people out of the classroom and say, ‘Let’s go into the museum.’”

Take a class: Interested in Andrew Rose’s teaching philosophy? Sign up for his Spring semester classes. Registration begins Dec. 9.