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'Highwaymen' display art pieces in South Florida for Black History Month

Michelle Obama among fans of Highwaymen artists

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In the 1950S and 60s, African-American artists began a style of landscape artistry that became known as the "Highwaymen style" because of the way they sold their art.

"During the 50s and 60s being black, you couldn't display your artwork in a gallery. You couldn't use a public restroom," second generation Highwayman Kelvin Hair said.

His father, Alfred Hair, is one of the pioneers of the Highwaymen movement.

As a teenager, Alfred Hair was trained by white landscape artist A.E. Backus in Fort Pierce.

Hair, unable to display his work in galleries, took his show on the road with other young black artists and they were very successful.

Their works, which sold for $20 back then, now sell for thousands and hang in the Florida Statehouse and first lady Michelle Obama also bought one in 2015.

There are 26 original Highwaymen artists and several second generation artists.

Kelvin Hair tours the country promoting the style of painting, which uses bright colors in Florida-style scenes. Highwaymen also painted very quickly to sell as many as they could.

Hair remembers watching his dad as a young boy.

"Each one individually took 10 minutes," he said.

Hair is in Fort Lauderdale this week to kick off a show at the Fort Lauderdale History Museum Society.

He is also doing seminars with students at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.

Ruth Burrotte is a digital artist at Dillard.

"The fact that he is teaching us his secrets, it's amazing, it's engulfing," Burrotte said.

Ceaser Valero is a digital artist and photographer at Dillard.

"It's very inspirational because it makes me feel that if I work as hard, I will make it like he did," Valero said.

Click here for more information about Kelvin Hair or visit the Fort Lauderdale History Museum's website.


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