Published On: Thu, Feb 6th, 2020

Spady Museum, Arts Garage Host Historic Florida’s African American ‘Highwaymen’ Painters for Black History Month

Boca Raton, FL – A handful of historic black painters who made a living peddling their landscape paintings up and down Florida’s highways out of the trunk of their cars, will return to the area this weekend for a two-day, pop-up exhibition, live painting demonstrations and a panel discussion. 

The self-taught artists, known as the Florida Highwaymen, will be at the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum’s Williams Cottage and the Arts Garage on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 8 and 9.

They played an essential role in depicting the state’s landscape in the mid-20th century. 

“Living legends walk among us, and it is a privilege to be able to appreciate them while they are still here,” Charlene Farrington, director of the Spady Museum, said in a news release.

Saturday’s exhibit will feature their work at the Arts Garage and the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum’s Williams Cottage from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There also will be live painting demonstrations at both locations from 1 to 2 p.m.  Issac Knight‘s work will be at the Arts Garage and  R.L. Lewis at The William’s Cottage.

Sunday’s exhibit will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Arts Garage. 

There will be a reception from 2-3 p.m. and attendees can enjoy light bites and speak with the artists.

The group of 26 self-taught African American landscape painters (25 men and one woman ) were famous for their colorful scenes of palm trees blowing in the Florida breeze and the beautiful landscapes of rural Florida. Their style has been passed down to and re-imagined by modern-day African American painters.

From the 1950s through the ’70s, the Highwaymen produced more than 200,000 paintings of Florida’s diverse ecology – vivid scenes depicting fiery red sunsets over aquamarine bays or the Spanish moss-covered banyan trees stretching over the state’s backwater regions. 

Originally, the group sold paintings for $25 or $30 each to day-tripping tourists along U.S. Route 1 on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. They sold their paintings on the same day they were made to (predominantly white) business owners in the banks, motels, and laundromats of their native Fort Pierce, even as galleries turned them away.


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