Florida’s home away from home in Washington D.C. is hosting an exhibit that celebrates Black artists and Florida’s beautiful landscapes.
The exhibit called “Highwaymen” is on display now at Florida House on Capitol Hill. It displays some of the artwork of 26 men and one woman who painted on the side of the highway in the Fort Pierce area in the 1950s. Kate Bracht, manager of events and operations of Florida House, said that one of the best ways to highlight the story of Florida is through fine art.
“We are proud to be able to install this exhibit right at the beginning of Black History Month,” she said. “The ‘Highwaymen’ were a really good story, not only about the African American spirit not only in Florida but here in the United States. In fact, some historians call The Highwaymen the last great artistic movement of the 20th century, and to have to come out of Florida and tell the story of these men and woman is just a tremendous opportunity particularly in the month of February.”
She says the artists were mostly self-taught and refused to work in local citrus groves during Jim Crow. Racism at the time meant museums and galleries would not showcase their art.
Despite the barriers, they tenaciously made a living pursuing their art careers. “Today they become a great representation of not just the Florida landscape but the Florida spirit,” said Bracht.
They produced most of their work of Florida landscapes by memory. They would create the paintings quickly and in a small scale, then sell them to collectors who would pass by. The
“Highwaymen” exhibit at Florida House includes 29 pieces of art, however, historians estimate these artists crafted over 200,000 paintings.
They are on loan from The Walker Collection for Florida’s self-taught art, and they were previously displayed in the Orlando Museum of Art.
According to Diana Beckmann, the executive director of Florida House on Capitol Hill, the purpose of the house known as “Florida’s embassy” is to showcase the state’s artwork, history,
and culture. “Our mission is to connect, celebrate, and champion Florida to the world,” said Beckmann. The exhibit will be on display through January, 2023.