Brevard Community College (Cocoa, FL)

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Woman holding a small painting in her hands.

A fan examines the work of Highwayman Isaac Knight at the exhibition in March 2003 at the Moore Mulitcultural Center of Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida. Photo courtesy of the Moore Multicultural Center, Brevard Community College.

In the 1950s, a small group of African American artists began traveling around Florida, painting the waterscapes, marshes, and inlets of the state. Excluded from the art galleries because of their race, these artists sold their works out of the trunks of their cars in the central Florida area between the cities of Fort Pierce, Daytona, and Orlando. Discovered by art historian Jim Fitch in the 1990s, they became known as the Highwaymen and are now receiving recognition for their artistic achievements.

In FY 2003, the Multicultural Center of Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida received an NEA Heritage/Preservation grant of $10,000 to support an exhibition and educational activities featuring the Highwaymen's work. The exhibition of Highwaymen's artwork was shown in March 2004 at the center. On a quarterly basis, the center will feature additional Highwaymen's work, with some of the artists participating in residency.

A festival celebrating the Highwaymen's work was held for the exhibition opening in March, attended by five of the artists who discussed and demonstrated their work. Through the exhibition, the Multicultural Center brought this diverse group of artists greater visibility in the community in which they worked, and was able to both preserve their stories of struggle for artistic expression and help them pass their artistic traditions on to future generations.

In addition, some of the artists have been conducting community workshops and lectures/demonstrations at local public schools. Highwayman R. L. Lewis, Jr. conducted the first workshops in January and April 2004 for twenty area residents, and three more are scheduled over the next year for an additional 40 participants. In April 2004, Lewis also conducted a lecture and painting demonstration for 100 area high school students. Additional educational activities at elementary and secondary schools are planned for fall 2004 and spring 2005.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)