Flagler County, FL – The work of a master artist holds an allure for his or her audience, and art lovers show their appreciation in a number of ways, including artist-inspired, painted sea turtles.

Unveiling Flagler County’s most recent addition to the Turtle Trail courtesy of Palm Coast Art Foundation patrons, it was a tribute to Old Florida as Flagler County Commission Chairman Donald O’Brien did the honors alongside the turtle’s sponsors and the artist, to reveal “Journey”.

Based on the works of the Florida Highwaymen, observers stopped to watch the fanfare inside the Government Services Building on Monday afternoon as artist AJ Barr shared her story of working with the only female Highwaymen member – Mary Ann Carroll, to implement a Highwaymen art program in the Clay County school where Barr taught.

With a passion for not only their art, but their stories, Barr said she drew heavily on the characteristics of the Highwaymen’s fast-paced work as inspiration for Journey’s vibrant colors and details.

“When you look at their work, I have several books, I met several of them, and took lessons from one of them – R.L. Lewis, he’s a character, very generous. He just sits and tells stories, and he’s an amazing guy,” recalls Barr.

Co-sponsors Sam Brunetti and AJ Barr, also the artist, admire Journey, the 12th turtle added to the Palm Coast Arts Foundation’s Turtle Trail, on March 29, 2021.

“But they all have this theme of necessity, because they all had to paint what they knew, and they had to paint it fast. It’s the Florida that’s disappearing or almost gone, and that’s what makes them so precious.”

Thrilled with the final offering, Dr. Awilda Hamilton, a co-sponsor of the 12th turtle on the trail along with her husband Hayes Jackson, expressed her own appreciation for the history preserved through the work of the Highwaymen.

“When viewing our turtle, Journey, even the casual viewer’s attention is drawn to the natural and flamboyant beauty of the Royal Poinciana tree prominently displayed on the turtle’s back.  It speaks to the beauty of Florida’s landscape and the brilliance of the Highwaymen as landscape artists.”

“The ascendance of the Highwaymen has elevated them from painters to artists,” she said.  “This truly captures the essence of the “American Dream.”  We are proud to recognize these iconic African American artists in Palm Coast via this public works project, and honored to add our acknowledgment of respect to these history makers along with the Museum of Florida History; Artists Hall of Fame, in Tallahassee; Smithsonian; and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington D.C.”

Co-sponsors Hayes Jackson, Dr. Awilda Hamilton, Sam Brunetti and artist AJ Barr celebrate the unveiling of Journey based on the works of the Highwaymen on March 29, 2021.

“For me, the Florida Highwaymen Artists’ backstory is inspirational because it reflects the true meaning of perseverance, tenacity, dreams, and dedication to hard work, often needed to refine one’s God-given talents,” shared Hamilton.

In his remarks, Commissioner O’Brien noted his company’s founder was an admirer of the Highwaymen’s art, with several pieces in his office building. Adding Journey to the turtle trail is a testament to the popularity and significance of the artists’ impact on Florida communities.

“We’re super excited to the host of the first indoor turtle and we’re so fortunate to be able to support the arts in Flagler County,” said O’Brien. “There are other communities that have sculpture programs but I don’t think they have turtles like we do, and the fact that this particular turtle is tied into the Highwaymen artists is just incredible.”

Flagler tourism chief Amy Lukasik shared how they’re getting the word out to visitors about the PCAF Turtle Trail throughout the county, including a dedicated Instagram guide.

“One of the most recent things we’ve done to continue to promote now that we have a very hefty trail to offer the visitors and the residents is that we’ve created a very specific blog on our website that also promotes arts and culture in general. We’re invested in promoting it and excited to see four new ones coming soon,” she said.

Featured Photo: Palm Coast Arts Foundation President Sam Perkovich cheers as Flagler County Commission Chair Donald O’Brien, Artist and co-sponsor AJ Barr, co-sponsors Dr. Awilda Hamilton and Hayes Jackson and co-sponsor Sam Brunetti unveil Journey to the public on March 29, 2021 at the Flagler County Government Services Building.


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