Florida Highwaymen exhibit, “The Road Well Traveled,” coming to FloArts
“The Road Well Traveled,” an exhibit featuring paintings by the Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 self-taught African American artists, will be on display at the Florida School of the Arts located on the Palatka campus of St. Johns River State College. The exhibit opens with a gallery reception at 7:00 p.m. on October 17. The event is free and open to the public.
From the mid-1950s to 1970, the Highwaymen created an estimated 200,000 works of art depicting Florida’s natural beauty, which was then sold from the trunks of their cars. This entrepreneurial spirit and talent allowed these artists to free themselves from working in citrus groves and labor camps.
As explained on FloridaHighwaymen.com, “Originating in the mid-1950s, an era marked by racism and poverty, these self-taught entrepreneurs mentored each other while they painted on basic materials like Upson board for canvasses, and crown molding for frames. Local galleries shunned their work, so they peddled their art from car trunks along area roadways, hence their name. The surviving Highwaymen, now in their sixties and seventies, are an important chapter in America’s culture and history, indeed, a national treasure. Their self-determination in the face of adversity remains an important story of perseverance, inspiration and creativity.”
The 26 original Highwaymen were recognized by the State of Florida's Division of Cultural Affairs and inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2014.
The exhibit is part of the College’s yearlong commemoration of the 400 Years of African American History Commission Act (H.R.1242/Public Law 115-102), intended “to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African Americans since 1619.”
Paintings by the following Highwaymen, including one Highwaywoman, will be on display at FloArts: Curtis Arnett, Hezekiah Baker, Al Black, George Buckner, Robert Butler, Mary Ann Carroll, Johnny Daniels, Willie Daniels, James Gibson, Alfred Hair, Lemuel Newton, Harold Newton and Livingston Roberts.
A work by A.E. "Bean" Backus, the artist who served as an inspiration to and a supporter, facilitator, and mentor of Alfred Hair, Harold Newton and the original Highwaymen, will also be included in this exhibition.
SJR State Dean of Learning Resources Christina Will, a fan of the exhibit, said, “The paintings produced by the Highwaymen are a state and national treasure. It is an honor to feature the works of 14 of the original Highwaymen at SJR State as part of the Commemoration.”
The exhibit closes on November 25.
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