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Florida Highwaymen exhibit debuts at Sarasota City Hall

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 26, 2023
The Florida Highwaymen exhibit will be on display at Sarasota City Hall beginning Jan. 8.
The Florida Highwaymen exhibit will be on display at Sarasota City Hall beginning Jan. 8.
Courtesy image
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Sarasota City Hall will host a collection of Florida Highwaymen paintings on exhibit beginning Monday, Jan. 8, in the atrium.

Known as Florida’s legendary Black landscape artists, the Florida Highwaymen emerged in the 1950s in the agricultural communities of Fort Pierce and Gifford. 

The group of young painters, which grew to include 25 men and one woman, became known as The Highwaymen because they sold their artwork from the trunks of their cars during the post-World War II boom, unable to exhibit through traditional methods because of racial barriers. 

While making ends meet, they also made a significant contribution to the genre of Florida landscape painting.

The Florida Highwaymen was a group of black painters who earned the moniker by selling their paintings from their cars on the sides of the state's roadways.
Courtesy image

“While their heyday was in the ’60s and ’70s, we really owe their discovery to a Florida art expert named Jim Fitch who began researching regional artwork in the mid-1990s,” said Mary Davis Wallace, public art manager of the city of Sarasota in a news release. “He gave The Highwaymen their moniker and through his writing introduced the world to their unique style of Florida landscape painting. These works captured idyllic, romantic landscapes of old Florida."

The exhibit is free and open to the public during City Hall hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Lectures and tours of the Florida Highwaymen exhibit will be offered at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13. 

Roger Lightle, a Highwaymen art collector, historian, lecturer and an authority on the genre will lead the 60-minute lectures. The exhibit is on loan from Lightle, owner of Highwaymen Art Specialists of Vero Beach. He has collected approximately 700 Highwaymen paintings, one of the most relevant collections of the genre, according to the news release.

The exhibit is the latest installment of the City Hall Cultural Heritage Exhibit series, which debuted in November 2022 to beautify the City Hall lobby while showcasing the history of arts and culture of Sarasota and Florida. Exhibits are displayed on a six-month rotation.


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