‘Against All Odds: The Art of the Highwaymen’
Paintings from artists who overca
me segregation in the 1950s to produce more than 200,000 works in 20 years are currently on display at the Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Resource Center in downtown Pensacola.
The traveling exhibit was funded in part by an Arts, Culture and Entertainment (ACE) grant.
The 23 paintings with the exhibit, “Against All Odds: The Art of the Highwaymen,” feature the natural and cultural history of Florida. The paintings range from depictions of the state’s swamps and beaches under a sunset to cotton fields and steamboats.
The Voices of Pensacola hosted an opening reception for the traveling exhibit on Nov. 7 from 5-7 p.m. and welcomed both members of the University of West Florida Historic Trust and UWF students.
The paintings were on display throughout the first floor’s main room, along with a presentation showcasing the 26 African-Americans who made up The Highwaymen.
“The Highwaymen earned their living creating paintings on the side of the road,” said Malinda Horton, interim executive director of the UWF Historic Trust. “They mainly traveled up and down the east coast of the United States.”
Students were also in attendance for the opening reception.
“These are excellent works of art,” graduate student John Hancock said. “I’m glad UWF was able to showcase this exhibit.”
UWF president Judy Bense was also in attendance.
“This exhibit is not only important to southern history, but Florida history as well,” Bense said. “This story exemplifies a silver lining of segregation in the 1950s.
The Highwaymen were self-taught landscape artists and used a technique called “fast grass” to create their paintings. The technique used a knife to quickly pull color in various directions to give it the look of thick, unruly grass.
This technique was created by Alfred Hair, according to the exhibit’s description.
Instead of using a blank canvas, The Highwaymen used Upson board. To prepare the board, a knife was used to lay down a thin undercoat of paint. A knife was used again to build up the scenery in the painting.
Galleries around Florida and the rest of the South both shunned and refused to buy their work, so the Highwaymen turned to traveling and selling paintings out of the back of their cars.
Originally, the Highwaymen charged around $35 for a framed painting. Today, an original painting might cost up to $45,000, according to the exhibit’s description.
The exhibit will be on display at the Voices of Pensacola until Dec. 28. The building is located at 117 East Government St. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
The Voices of Pensacola will also be hosting a presentation by Gary Monroe, writer of “The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters” on Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m. This presentation is also free and open to the public.
The opening reception for the traveling exhibit was on the second day of Pensacola’s Foo Foo Festival, a 12 day celebration of the city’s cultural history. The festival takes place from Nov. 6 to Nov. 17.
Events in the festival include the Japanese film festival, performances from the symphony orchestra and Jerry Seinfeld, and the third annual craft beer festival.