Published: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.

Last Modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 7:21 a.m.

Artist Robert Rice died Aug. 2 at his Sebastopol home.


Sebastopol resident Robert Rice was proud to call himself an artist and a dancer.

"It is a lifelong dream to live every day as an artist," Rice, 71, wrote in an autobiography in 2007. "I still dance. But at age 70, I keep my feet closer to the floor and leap less."

The award-winning artist died Aug. 2 at his Sebastopol home of multiple myeloma, an aggressive blood cancer, said his wife, Joan Price.

Price described her husband as "a genuinely good man, living with integrity, loving fully and sharing his skills, his knowledge and his joy with the people who knew him."

Rice was born and raised in Ohio. His love of dance came early with tap dancing at age 3 to help correct a birth defect in his foot.

"He did tap dancing his whole childhood. He was a tap-dancing waiter in college, he did musical theater, started studying ballet and modern dance," Price said.

Rice married and had two children while in his 20s. He attended colleges in three states and earned two master's degrees, for fine arts and movement therapy, Price said.

He began teaching art and dance at the college level. Rice extended his dance background to dance therapy and dance as a form of spirituality. Jobs took him to different states and venues, including universities, museums and hospitals.

In 1984 he moved to California to work for the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College in Oakland. He also worked at Mount Zion Medical Center in San Francisco, directing a program bringing artists, musicians, poets and actors to homes of confined elderly persons and to the bedside of AIDS patients.

Eventually, he longed to return to his painting and moved to a small cabin in the woods in Mendocino County.

Without any amenities, he was there almost three years, painting every day and selling his paintings in a Mendocino gallery.

"It was a life-altering time for him," his wife said.

Out of the woods, Rice settled in Sonoma County and became coordinator of arts programs for the Cultural Arts Council in Santa Rosa.

He also signed up for a line-dancing class at a Sebastopol gym and fell in love with Price, the instructor.

They were together about seven years, and married two years ago, living in Sebastopol.

Rice painted his abstract pieces in his studio, a converted chicken coop.

Over many years, he participated in many prestigious juried shows throughout Northern California and won several awards.

He battled leukemia while in his 60s until the cancer went into remission.

"We were reborn with the joy of health," said Price, an author who wrote a book about her relationship with Rice and the joys of sex after age 60.

But last spring, Rice was diagnosed with the more aggressive cancer. He painted as long as he could.

"He was the love of my life, and I feel honored to have known him and loved him," Price said.

As well as his wife, Rice is survived by his son, Mitchell Rice of Santa Rosa; daughter, Dana Rice of Hartwick, N.Y., and two grandchildren.

A celebration of his life and retrospective of his art will be held Sept. 20. For more information, e-mail Price at

Memorial donations may be made to Memorial Hospice, 821 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa 95401.

-- Randi Rossmann