Florida Highwaymen exhibit open to public in Sarasota City Hall in downtown Sarasota

Two lectures planned for Feb. 13

This is one of the paintings in the exhibit. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

A capsule collection of Florida Highwaymen paintings is being presented as the latest Cultural Heritage Exhibit in the Sarasota City Hall atrium, which is located at 1565 First St. in downtown Sarasota.

The artwork went on view Jan. 8; the hours for public viewing are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., a Cit of Sarasota news release says.

“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 release explains. “The group of young painters, which grew to include 25 men and one woman, became known as The Highwaymen. They were prolific painters who sold their artwork from the trunks of their cars during the post-World War II boom because they were unable to exhibit through traditional means” as a result of racial barriers, the release adds.

“While making ends meet, they also made a significant contribution to the genre of Florida landscape painting,” the release points out.

The 26 original Highwaymen were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004, the release notes.

“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, the city’s public art manager, in the 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,” she added in the release.

The exhibit is on loan from Roger Lightle, a Highwaymen art collector and owner of  the Highwaymen Art Specialists Inc. in Vero Beach, the release says. “Since the late 1990s, Lightle has collected approximately 700 Highwaymen paintings, amassing one of the most relevant collections of the genre,” the release notes.

Lectures and tours of the Florida Highwaymen exhibit will be offered twice on Tuesday, Feb. 13: at 10 a.m. and at 6 p.m., the release continues. Each session will last approximately 60 minutes, with Roger Lightle leading the discussion.

“We are honored to partner with Mr. Lightle to advance the narrative of the Highwaymen, host their work in historic City Hall and to provide access to the public free of charge,” said Wallace in the release.

“The City Hall Cultural Heritage Exhibit launched in November 2022 to beautify the City Hall lobby” while sharing Sarasota’s and Florida’s rich history in arts and culture, the release explains. Pieces are on a six-month rotation. Among previous exhibitors have been the Arts Advocates, the Circus Arts Conservatory, The Sarasota Architecture Center and the Sarasota County History Center archive.