Inspirational works of Florida Highwaymen
and celebration of Oscar Bluemner’s 150 birthday
Highwayman Alfred Hair, 24×36-inch painting on Upson board.
Stetson University’s Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center summer exhibitions will feature works of the Florida Highwaymen and small works from the museum’s Oscar Bluemner collection.
The Florida Highwaymen: Art Innovators in a Civil Rights Epoch
June 3 – July 29
This exhibit will explore the African-American men and one woman who painted Florida’s natural landscape in a time when the country was emerging from the Jim Crow south and entering the tumultuous era of the Civil rights moment. This exhibit will feature more than 30 paintings from private collections throughout the state, many of which have never been shown publicly. Each work is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of these struggling artists and bears witness to the beautiful unspoiled Florida landscape.
The group of 26 landscape artists began in Ft. Pierce, Florida, with Alfred Hair, who had learned technical aspects of landscape painting from Albert E. “Bean” Backus. Hair realized the cultural and economic limitations he faced as a black man in the segregated, southern United States, and entered the marketplace by selling his paintings door-to-door. Eventually he employed a crew of friends as commissioned salesmen to sell paintings along the sides of the Florida’s highways — hence the name Florida Highwaymen. These friends also were interested in painting and with Backus’ assistance learned to create their own work. Today, the Florida Highwaymen and their work are considered an important part of American folk history.
Highwaymen exhibition in collaboration with Lisa Stone Arts.
Gallery walk through with photographer and author Gary Monroe, Saturday, June 3, 1 p.m.
Monroe writes about Florida artists and his books include The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Paintersand many other titles about this group of self-taught artists.
Oscar Bluemner: A Birthday Potpourri – Small Works from the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection
June 3-July 29
The art center’s 150th birthday celebration for Oscar Bluemner will include an exhibit of 39 small works that offer the exquisite visual experience that viewers have come to expect in a display drawn from the Hand Art Center’s keynote collection. The center is home to the largest collection of art by modernist painter Oscar Bluemner, with more than 1,000 pieces bequeathed to the university by the artist’s daughter, Vera Bluemner Kouba.
“Few of the exhibit’s small works have ever been shown before,” said Tonya Curran, director of the Hand Art Center. “That makes his birthday a great time to celebrate Bluemner’s work and to look at some examples that are very different thematically from what has been shown before. These are special pieces, unique in their own ways.”
Oscar Bluemner Birthday Celebration, June 21, 4-6 p.m.
Celebration including birthday cake to mark Bluemner’s 150th birthday.
Oscar Bluemner and “The Great American Painting,” July 8, 1 p.m.
Lecture with Dr. Roberta Smith Favis, curator of the Oscar Bluemner collection at Stetson.
If You Go
The Hand Art Center is on the Stetson University campus at 139 East Michigan Avenue, DeLand, Florida, 32723. It is open to the public free of charge. In addition to the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection, it has a broad collection of artwork by Stetson University students, art faculty and alumni. The 5,000-square-foot building includes multiple galleries: The Oscar Bluemner Gallery exhibits rotating selections of the artist’s work and the Gary Libby Gallery hosts exhibits from the university’s permanent art collection or special shows. Except for holidays and school vacations, Hand Art Center is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Saturday, noon-4 p.m. All exhibits are open to the public free of charge.