Highwaymen travel to downtown Mount Dora

By Debbie Manis, STAFF WRITER
August 8, 2011

Some of the original Florida Highwaymen artists, who continue to practice their livelihood of painting colorful images of Florida waterscapes, backcountry marshes and inlets, will be in Mount Dora this weekend for the Seventh Highwaymen Art Show and Sale.

Florida Highwaymen is the name given by art collector Jim Fitch to a group of artists (25 African-American men and one woman), many from Fort Pierce, who painted Florida landscapes during the 1950s and '60s and traveled the state selling their works to local businesses. He named them Highwaymen because of their tactics of traveling I-95 and A1A to sell their artwork.

The self-taught artists painted fast in their backyards and garages using brushes, knives and fingers to paint pictures of leaning palm trees, bright red Poincianatrees, churning oceans and vibrant sunsets.

Highwaymen enthusiasts can view some of their works during the Florida Highwaymen Art Walk, which are on display at 17 participating businesses including shops, beauty salons and restaurants in downtown Mount Dora from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Friday.

Visitors can pick up a tour map at the Mount Dora Center for Arts, 134 E. Fifth Ave.; and have their tour map validated with a stamp at participating establishments to enter a drawing for $500 Dora Dollars.

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The Mount Dora Chamber of Commerce will host a meet-and-greet with the artists from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the chamber's Historic Train Station, 341 Alexander St. The event is free, and light appetizers and refreshments will be served.

The two-day art show and sale begins Saturday at the Donnelly Park Building, 530 N. Donnelly St., from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

A banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lakeside Inn, 100 N. Alexander St. in downtown Mount Dora. Participants can dine with the artists, while they collaborate on an original painting that will be given to a guest. To make a reservation, call the inn at 352-383-4101.

Artists who plan on attending are Al Black, Willie Daniels, James Gibson, Isaac Knight, Robert Lewis, John Maynor, Roy McLendon, Charles Walker and Charles "Chico" Wheeler.

The artists generated an estimated 200,000 paintings. Many of the pieces originally sold for $25 to $50, but now some of the paintings are worth thousands. The group was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Highwaymen art will be donated to the Historic Train Station restoration fund.

The event is presented by Heron Cay Bed and Breakfast and sponsored by various Mount Dora businesses including the Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce.

Details: mountdoraart.com or whattodoinmtdora.com.

Orlando Sentinel, 1898 E. Burleigh Blvd., Tavares, FL 32778-4366, fax 352-742-5938 ordmanis@tribune.com.

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