Famed Fort Pierce artist to be remembered Saturday

A.E. Backus
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of famed Fort Pierce landscape artist, A.E. Backus.

Panel discussion at Sunrise Theatre Black Box focuses on the inspiring stories and enduring influence of A.E. ‘Bean’ Backus

FORT PIERCE — The A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery will present a panel discussion entitled “We Remember Backus” as a session in the fourth annual Treasure Coast History Festival on Saturday, Jan. 11, presented by Indian River Magazine. The panel discussion will start at 1 p.m. in the Sunrise Theatre’s Black Box Theatre located at 117 South 2nd Street in Historic Downtown Fort Pierce. Admission is free and no reservations are required, though seating is on a first-come, first served basis.

The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of noted Florida regional artist A.E. “Bean” Backus (1906-1990), who was born and lived in Fort Pierce. With a career spanning more than 70 years, Backus was the first Florida-born artist to build his professional renown by painting the landscape and scenes from daily life of his native state. He was fortunate to have known great success during his lifetime, with paintings hanging in the businesses and the private collections of many of Florida’s most prominent citizens. A renowned humanitarian who abhorred the racist attitudes and segregation that engulfed the region, Backus taught and mentored the group of entrepreneurial African American artists who became known as the Florida Highwaymen. Their inspiring story is part of the A.E. Backus legacy.

The discussion, moderated by the Museum’s Executive Director, J. Marshall Adams, will explore the historical significance and the abiding impact of the artist’s life on those who remember him, and how those who never knew him can learn from his example as an artist and as an altruist, who quietly used his skills and reputation to make the world a better place. The session will feature Mary “Baby” Backus Clapp (the artist’s surviving niece) with family memories; Doretha Hair Truesdell, the widow of Backus protégé and original Highwaymen artist Alfred Hair; and Jacqueline Schindehette, noted student of Backus who was with him in his final hours. Other guests will also share their memories of the artist.

Individuals are welcome to contribute their own personal stories and photographs as memories of Bean Backus online, for possible sharing on stage and for preserving this important local history. Please visit www.indianrivermagazine.com/we-remember-backus/ to offer the special, funny, or important ways you remember A.E. Backus.

The fourth annual Treasure Coast History Festival brings the rich and fascinating past of the Treasure Coast to life on Saturday, January 11 in downtown Fort Pierce, in front of the Sunrise Theatre. The festival begins at 9 a.m., with historical re-enactors ranging from Seminole War soldiers from the 1800s to early settlers in the 1900s depicting life on the Treasure Coast, while authors of books on local history subjects will be spotlighted in the Authors Alley. In addition to the “We Remember Backus” program at  1 p.m., additional sessions will include “Billy Johnson’s Fort Pierce” at 9:30 a.m., and “The Ais Natives of the Treasure Coast” by archaeologist Alan Brech at 11 a.m.

Free and open to the public, the Treasure Coast History Festival is produced by Indian River Magazine Inc. in association with Main Street Fort Pierce, Sunrise Ford and Sunrise Volkswagen, the St. Lucie County Historical Society, the A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery and the Sunrise Theatre. For more information on the festival, please visit www.indianrivermagazine.com/treasure-coast-history-festival/

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