St. Pete landscape artist West Evans said the legendary Florida Highwaymen helped him find peace.
"They really change your spirit and help you appreciate the world you live in," Evans said.
The Florida Highwaymen were a largely self-taught group of brilliant Black artists in the 50s and 60s who sold vibrant landscapes to tourists motoring through the Jim Crow South.
The tourists thought they were buying cheap tchotchkes but really they were buying priceless art.
A few years ago, Evans painted with one of the original Highwaymen, Al Black.
"Al changed the course of my life," Evans said. "And I appreciate him more than anything else in the world."
Evans now paints his lush, lovely Highwaymen-inspired landscapes all over St. Petersburg. You can see and buy his work at the Vintage Marche monthly market, and Libby Lane Vintage in Dunedin. You can also follow him on Instagram.
Or maybe you'll just run into him at Vinoy Park, where he'll urge you to seek out the work of Al Black and others.
His current mission is raising awareness and funds for the upcoming Florida Highwaymen Museum, scheduled to open next year in Fort Pierce. Family and friends are also backing the museum.
"To me, these guys are the American Dream," said Evans, who described their style as "a fantasy in your head of the way Florida used to be."
The Florida Highwaymen are currently being celebrated at the Polk Museum of Art, but Evans said it's time these giants — and his friend Al — had a place of their own.
To find out more about, or donate to, the Florida Highwaymen Museum, click here.