February 23, 2012
|Philip Brady '12 and Al Black showcase their paintings.
Philip Brady ’12 is not your typical art aficionado. In fact, the anthropology major and international business minor has never taken an art class in his life. So why did he help orchestrate a recent campus visit by Al Black, one of the legendary Florida Highwaymen painters? Because behind every piece of art is a story, and Brady couldn’t wait to share the Highwaymen’s with his community.
An Introduction to the Highwaymen
“The first time I ever heard about the Highwaymen was last semester when my senior seminar class visited the Hannibal Square Heritage Center,” said Brady, referring to the course Cultural Heritage and Museums taught by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jonathan R. Walz.
At the Center, Brady met Barbara Chandler, the Center’s assistant manager, who gave his class a tour around the center. She also talked about the Highwaymen and passed around a book about Al Black. “He had been given credit for not only being one of the original Highwaymen but for also having a silver tongue, and taking the sale of these paintings to a new level.”
Brady immediately felt an innate kinship with Black and chose him as the topic of his senior seminar paper. A few weeks later, Chandler set up a phone interview between Brady and Black. “After that conversation, I suggested to Barbara that we try to bring Al to the Heritage Center to speak.”
Bringing Al Black to Rollins
A fellow anthropology student, Cory Baden ’12, had recently collaborated with the Cornell Museum of Fine Art (CFAM), so Brady started putting out feelers. “Jonathan F. Walz, the museum’s interim director, really liked the idea.” Brady started meeting with Chandler as well as Fairolyn Livingston, the historian and manager of the Heritage Center, and Mary Daniels, a docent at the Heritage Center. The group had weekly meetings to hammer out the details such as the parameters of the event, attendance, budget, location, and funding. “The idea was mine but a lot of the legwork was done by them,” said Brady.
What resulted was an invitation to Al Black to speak at the Heritage Center and to visit CFAM to facilitate an open-air painting workshop designed for young African American males between the ages of 15 to 21. “Al Black’s story is filled with lots of lows,” Chandler explained. “He was able to overcome his challenges and become a very successful painter and business man. This allowed us to demonstrate that difficult situations can be overcome in different ways. Knowing who Black is and the obstacles he had to overcome may help others overcome obstacles they face in their life.”
Held outside CFAM on the shores of Lake Virginia, the workshop took place on Saturday, February 18. “It was a smaller group than we had anticipated, only 12 to 14 people, but we really got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Al Black,” said Brady, who worked on his own landscape piece along with the group. “I think the kids that were there really understood what we were trying to accomplish. It had a positive impact. I feel great about this experience.”
In the end, the experience unearthed a deep passion for art, which Brady plans to pursue as an art collector. In fact, his graduation gift from his mother will be an original Al Black painting; the first piece in what he hopes will eventually become a modest collection of artwork.
By Kristen Manieri