Florida Department of State
Glenda E. Hood
Secretary of State
For Immediate Release
December 16, 2003
Secretary of State Glenda E. Hood Announces 2004 Hall of Fame Inductees
Secretary of State Glenda E. Hood is pleased to announce that sculptor Albin Polasek and landscape painters Alfred Hair and the Highwaymen will be the 2004 inductees into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
"It is truly an honor to induct these significant Florida artists into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame," said Secretary Hood. "Their artistic visions have greatly contributed to our state's cultural heritage."
Born in 1879 in Frenstat, Moravia, now part of the Czech Republic, Albin Polasek (1879-1965) was a legendary artist and sculptor who retired to Winter Park, Florida in 1949. He began his career as a wood carver apprentice in Vienna and immigrated to America in 1901. He studied sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and was awarded a fellowship to study at the American Academy in Rome from 1910-1913. Upon his return to America, he set up a studio in New York City and later moved to Chicago to become head of the Department of Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1949, he set up his retirement home and studio on Lake Osceola in Winter Park where he continued to produce artwork until he passed away in 1969. Upon his death, Albin Polasek generously donated his sculpture for public display and requested his studio, his home, and his galleries be open to the public to encourage the study, appreciation, and furtherance of representational art. In 2000, his home and studio were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Alfred Hair (1941-1970) and the Highwaymen, a small group of African American painters from Ft. Pierce, began painting Florida landscapes in the late fifties. Under the tutelage of local landscape artist, A. E. "Beanie" Backus, these young artists developed their own individual techniques, creating unique depictions of Florida's sunsets, waterscapes, marshes and inlets with raw beauty and charm. Through the leadership and creativity of Alfred Hair, the artists shunned traditional methods, and painted quick, brisk images of Florida's tropical beauty in bright colors, often painting on wood or masonite. They sold their creations from the trunks of their cars along Florida's east coast for as little as twenty dollars each, showering the state with approximately 200,000 paintings. In the 70's and 80's, however, the Highwaymen fell on hard times as consumer tastes changed. But in the 90's, an interest in "outsider art" developed in the art world and a Florida collector coined this group of artists as the "Highwaymen." Today, their paintings are widely sought after. Several original Highwaymen still paint today including artist James Gibson whose paintings currently hang in Governor Jeb Bush's executive office.
Established by the Florida Legislature in 1986, the Florida Artists Hall of Fame is the highest and most prestigious cultural honor that the State of Florida bestows upon any individual. The Florida Department of State presents this honor to recognize those persons who have made significant contributions to the arts in Florida as a practicing artist or performer. Florida natives and those persons who have adopted Florida as their home state and base of operations are eligible.
The Florida Artists Hall of Fame currently consists of 34 inductees, including musician and performer Ray Charles, writers Zora Neale Hurston, Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway, and visual artists Duane Hanson, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist.