Floridiana – A term referring to artifacts relating to Florida history, geography, folklore, and cultural heritage.
Florida is a curious state. To outsiders, it may seem kitschy, exotic and just plain weird. To some of us residents, it’s an odd cultural and artistic melting pot that way too often is bulldozed for the sake of progress.
But many natives and longtime Floridians appreciate our quirky history and think it’s something worth preserving. From time to time, shows and exhibits pop up that deserve attention and attendance. Once such event honoring vintage Floridiana, including the legendary Florida Highwaymen artists, will be held Sunday, Jan. 29, in downtown St. Petersburg.
The Floridiana Festival & Highwaymen Artist Show is held at least once a year in the Tampa Bay area, organized by the fine folks from Hula Hula Productions. Billed as the Sunshine State’s longest-running show and sale of vintage Floridiana, the event also gives attendees the unique opportunity to meet and mingle with many of the original Florida Highwaymen artists.
The Florida Highwaymen is a group of African-American artists that broke convention to paint iconic landscapes beginning in the mid-1950s. They were self-taught entrepreneurs in an era overshadowed by racism and poverty. Local galleries shunned them, so they sold their art from car trunks along area roadways, hence their name. Their success allowed them to escape from working in citrus groves and labor camps, and they created a body of work that has become not only a timeless collection of art spotlighting the natural environment, but a symbol of determination and belief in oneself.
The surviving Highwaymen, now in their 60s and 70s, are a living tribute to not just Floridiana, but American culture and history. Florida Highwaymen artists scheduled to appear on Jan. 29 include James Gibson, Issac Knight, R.L. Lewis, Roy McLendon Sr., and Carnel Smith.
In addition, you can bring your old Florida paintings for a complimentary valuation by Bob LeBlanc, a leader in the field of vintage Florida art and Highwaymen paintings. The show will also include Florida memorabilia dealers selling old roadside attraction souvenirs, tropical home decor and small furnishings, vintage barkcloth pillows and tropical fabric remnants, plus much more.
There will also be several special presentations:
* The Culture of Aloha Shirts (11:30 a.m.): Dr. Gary Moss will trace the history of these wearable works of art first produced in the 1930s in Hawaii. He’ll examine the classic appeal of these shirts, which are ideal for the tropical climate of Florida. Moss, whose shirt collection is featured in the book Hawaiian Shirts: Dress Right for Paradise, will explain why vintage shirts are becoming so valuable and will offer free appraisals.
* Taking a Textile Trip Back in Time … to the Era of Barkcloth (1 p.m.): Brian Walsh, a textile archeologist from Florida Bungalow Fabrics in Jacksonville, will discuss the impact this tropical fabric had on designs from its 1940s-50s heyday through today. You’ll learn how to spot true vintage barkcloth and see some of Walsh’s most treasured designs from his collection. He’ll also offer tips on collecting and caring for vintage fabrics, which many collectors consider works of art.
This is not your typical collectible show for geriatrics. Hula Hula Productions, which manages and produces antique and specialty shows in the Tampa Bay region, promises an event that’s “hip, entertaining, and filled with Florida flair.”
The Floridiana Festival & Highwaymen Artist Show will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Admission is $6; children under 3 are $3. Lectures, slide presentations and art valuations are included. For more information, call (727) 421-0441 or visit the official Web site.