In a 2002 PBS documentary by then Broward-based father and son production team, John and Jack Hamrick, the duo explored the story of the Florida Highwaymen, 26 African American artists who thrived against all odds in Jim Crow era Florida to create an inspiring and unorthodox art movement.
The highway artists produced an estima-ted 100,000 works and sold their painted scenes at times with “the oil still wet out of their car trunks,” driving Florida’s roads looking for buyers.
Today their paintings hang in the White House and in the Florida Governor’s Mansion.
In 2004 all Florida Highwaymen Artists (including the one female) were inducted in Florida’s Hall of Fame, the state’s highest cultural honor.
Fort Lauderdale History Museum has dedicated the kick off of its Black History Month Exhibit to the subject of the Highwayman via special visual arts exhibits, lectures, and student workshops.
On Feb. 8, at 6pm, the public is invited to visit the museum for an opening reception. Author and Historian of Outsider Art, Gary Monroe will share memories about the Highwaymen, as well as some of their vintage works.
Kelvin Hair, the Second Generation Highwaymen Artist who was recognized by Governor Scott in 2012 as a featured pioneer Artist from the State of Florida, will display his work and meet and greet the public.
“We are on a mission to identify the next wave of inventive painters that can capture the spirit of this legacy,” said Hair.
“The Highwaymen paintings represent the postwar ideal of Florida better than alligators and oranges, said Historian Gary Monroe. “They challenge our notions of race relations during the time that these artists prevailed, before the Civil Rights Movement and when Jim Crow laws were still in force. These dreamy images stimulate a viewer to a transcendent sense of self, relative to our wondrous land where fact and fiction can blur to suit one’s imagination,” Monroe added.