The Tampa Bay History Center Features Exhibition From The Florida Highwaymen

By Kathy L. Collins

The Tampa Bay History Center presents Against All Odds: The Art of The Highwaymen, a retrospective featuring the artwork from all 26 Florida Highwaymen artists. The exhibit is open from Saturday, June 14 through Sunday, August 17.

The Florida Highwaymen is a group of African American Artists who were unable to show their work in local art galleries during the Jim Crow era of the 1950’s. The group decided to take their art directly to the people. The group, which included Harold Newton, Alfred Hair, Roy McLendon, James Gibson and other African American artists from Fort Pierce, began selling their artwork along Florida’s roadways. Hence, they became known as The Florida Highwaymen.

They sold their paintings, featuring colorful Florida landscapes, out of the trunks of their cars along Florida’s highways, usually for no more than $35. They worked collaboratively, sometimes finishing each other’s paintings, and employed a “fast painting” method that allowed them to produce hundreds of paintings.

They were dubbed “The Highwaymen” in the mid-1990s by art collector and critic, Jim Fitch. Works by these previously unknown, self-taught folk artists became highly sought after by private collectors and galleries all over the world who started exhibiting their work.

“We are extremely gratified to have the opportunity to host this traveling exhibition,” said Rodney Kite-Powell, the History Center’s Saunders Foundation Curator of History.

“We are particularly proud to include in the exhibition the last painting completed by notable Highwaymen artist Robert Butler before his death this past March,” said Kite-Powell.

The collection is on loan from the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando. The exhibition features a rare look at the work of all 26 Florida Highwaymen.

The Tampa Bay History Center, located at 801 Old Water St. in downtown Tampa, includes three floors of permanent and temporary exhibition space focusing on 12,000 years of Florida history.

The center is one of Tampa’s premier cultural venues. It provides hands-on, kid-friendly activities, together with cutting-edge interactive exhibits and theaters to provide a unique educational experience.

For more information, visit www.tampabayhistorycenter.org.