The story of the Florida Highwaymen is the story of American ingenuity overcoming all obstacles. In the late 1950s, a group of artists inspired by and led by Alfred Hair began producing colorful landscape paintings and selling them from the trunks of their cars. They took to the road because as black men, they weren't going to be accepted in the world of mostly white-owned and operated art galleries. But they also took to the road with their art because painting was a better way of life than working the fields or toiling on road crews. The plan, as outlined by Hair, was simple: turn out consistently good work as quickly as you could and in as great a quantity as possible, then sell it to hotels, motels and whoever else wanted some art in their home/office for as little as $25 a painting. Jump forward 40 years to the Outsider Art boom of the '90s, and suddenly the Highwaymen's work was in great demand — so great a demand that some of the original 26 artists returned to painting, because when the money's good, paint. The Florida Highwaymen, an exhibition about the history of the group, their art and the importance of what they achieved, opens with a free public reception from 6 to 8 p.m., Monday, February 1, at the St. Louis Public Library's Central branch (1301 Olive Street; 314-241-2288 or www.slpl.org). Art by original Highwayman Isaac Knight is featured in the exhibit, as well as art by local children inspired by the movement. The work remains up through Sunday, February 28, and admission is free.
Feb. 1-28, 2010