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Painter Kelvin Hair carries on Florida Highwaymen legacy

#FloridaHighwayman son @KelvinHair carries on famed painters' legacy w/ several shows in #FortLauderale.

Kelvin Hair has for decades been a torchbearer for the original Florida Highwayman, a popular group of black painters who depicted landscapes of wild Florida from roadsides in the late 1950s and early '60s.

Hair's paintings of ripe oranges, bright-red poincianas and vivid purple jacarandas mirror the subjects and style of his father, Alfred, one of the 26 Florida Highwaymen who made money in the segregated South by painting with loose, blinding-fast brushstrokes.

"Highwaymen use vibrant colors and a lot of contrast," Hair, 51, says. "It's also what I know and what I'm comfortable with, painting with the raw feeling and emotion that they used to do. I feel very honored to carry the torch."

From Saturday, Feb. 6, to Feb. 10, Hair will visit Fort Lauderdale for a handful of Highwaymen-themed art talks, exhibits and classes. His visit will conclude with an exhibit on Friday, Feb. 12, and Saturday, Feb. 13, at Frame 'n Art by the Sea in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, where 40 of Hair's own paintings and 60 originals from Florida Highwaymen — all inductees in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame — will be showcased. The exhibit will also raise awareness for "The Unknowns: Talent Is Colorblind" a forthcoming movie by Fort Lauderdale filmmaker Walter Shaw about the Highwaymen, will star Whoopi Goldberg and Sam Rockwell.

While the Fort Pierce resident typically spends "four hours" swishing paint on one "normal-size" landscape, the Highwaymen worked slightly quicker — 30 minutes — churning out up to 20 paintings a day.

The breakneck pace yielded many sales, as Florida Highwaymen peddled paintings from the trunks of their cars to offices and new Art Deco hotels willing to pay cheaply and in bulk.

"Being black, my father and the Highwaymen couldn't go into a restaurant or eat in a movie theater," Hair says. "Do you really think they're going to get into an art gallery to show their artwork? If you're a second-class citizen, you're not getting first-class compensation. So my father figured, 'I'll paint 20 paintings in a day, and I'll still get the same amount of money as a white man who painted one.'"

Following are free Florida Highwaymen events in South Florida:

"Outsider Artists — the Legacies of the Florida Highwaymen and Purvis Young in Broward County" opening event, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at Dillard High School's Dillard Art Gallery, 2501 NW 11th St., in Fort Lauderdale. Also features works by Purvis Young and other Florida outsider artists and Dillard students. Free admission, and includes a performance by the Dillard High School Jazz Ensemble.

Sunday Jazz Brunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, along Fort Lauderdale's Riverwalk. Free, and includes jazz performances by Blues Therapy and Jazz, Peter and Will Anderson and Riverside Dixieland Band. Hair will paint on the porch outside Fort Lauderdale History Museum, 219 SW Second Ave., in Fort Lauderdale.

Highwaymen lecture and opening of "Outsider Artists," 6-8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8, at Fort Lauderdale History Museum. Art historian Gary Monroe will lecture on the legacy of Highwaymen and Florida folk artists. The show will close on Feb. 29.

Painting class with Kelvin Hair, 4-5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, at African-American Research Library, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale.

Broward Means Business mixer, 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Fort Lauderdale History Museum, in which young professionals network and learn about Florida's folk-art history.

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