Florida Highwaymen Artist Robert Butler to Benefit At-Risk Teens
On Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 1-5 p.m., Robert Butler, Florida’s premier Highwayman Artist will host a benefit supporting at-risk teen artists at Community Stepping Stones. Butler’s compassion and community concern has grown along with his professional acclaim. He is an artist who himself went from rags to riches and now wants to help disadvantaged young people seeking art careers.
Butler will be exhibiting and selling his work on the Community Stepping Stones campus located in historic Mann Wagnon Park, along the Hillsborough River. Profits from each sale will support the environmental art program for at-risk teens. This Champagne event will feature classical river music and an announcement about upcoming Butler workshops as well as a Highwayman artist-in residence program launching at Community Stepping Stones. Butler will also present special paintings to local government officials for the people of Tampa. Tampa Bay History Center curator, Rodney Kite-Powell, will be on hand to discuss the historic significance of the Hillsborough River to Tampa’s growing community.
Butler will be available to sign his newly published autobiography (available for the first time during this event). It features many of his famous paintings lost in fires and those created for national historic archives.
Born in Baxley, Georgia in 1943, of African and Cherokee heritage, Butler moved with his mother to Okeechobee, Florida, when he was only 4 years old. His mother, Annie Tolifer Butler, picked tomatoes, cleaned motel rooms, and waitressed to support herself and her son. Robert recalls how she encouraged him in his art, selling it alongside roadways to passing tourists—earning him the designation highwayman artist. Annie was the first of many people who recognized Butler’s prodigious talent and gave him a hand up. His appreciation for his mentors drives his charity today.
Butler began painting in 1968. Unlike most of the other Highwaymen, he painted wildlife because the area around Okeechobee teamed with Florida species. His paintings show the detail of a scientist. He is exacting; accurately depicting the plants and animals in his paintings. “My focus is on the river and streams of Florida,” he said. “I wanted to do documentary painting in the style of Norman Rockwell to bring attention to Florida.” Butler opened his own art gallery in Lakeland, Florida.
A prolific painter, Butler is a member of the Florida Arts Hall of Fame. He has major canvases in some of Florida’s most prestigious homes and offices, as well as the Florida Capital Building, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Office, Florida House in Washington DC, and the Beijing Zoo. He is also a Knight of the Imperial Order of the Star of Honor of the Ethiopian Empire by order of His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Haile Selassie.
Tickets to this event are limited, and may be purchased for a suggested donation at www.CommunitySteppingStones.org - $55 in advance and $65 at the door.
Community Stepping Stones, a nonprofit (501c3) creative learning center, offers an integrated arts and science curriculum that inspires, educates, mentors and prepares at-risk youth to become successful adults. Learn more at: www.communitysteppingstones.org.
Mann Wagnon Park is located in Sulphur Springs. The county-city sponsored cultural campus houses Community Stepping Stones, the Moses House and the Sulphur Springs Museum.