When I was much younger I would go with my friend Joelle to A. E. (Beanie) Backus's house/studio. We both loved to watch him paint and would make mental notes of color choices and brush strokes. I remember him as very old, with a head full of white hair. He always had a paintbrush in his hand. His house/studio (that smelled of oil paint and paint thinner) was an old Florida home located in Fort Pierce. There were always boards and such piled up in his yard along with a stash of brushes and art supplies. He had them to share with local artists who were struggling to make ends meet. Beanie was a generous man in that way. I think every time I went to his house/studio his brother-in-law, James Hutchinson was there, painting along side Beanie. There were also random visitors in and out of his house. Some to talk, some to watch him paint, some to pick his brain, and some just needed somewhere to stay.
Beanie was always painting (at least when I visited) and it was incredible to watch. He seemed to always use the same color palette. Nonetheless, every painting held a unique beauty. With one small stroke he could make a painting come alive. His ability to capture the beauty of Florida was unbelievable. He said he was inspired by the nature around him and his artwork backs that up. Beanie has been dead for many years now but his artwork is here to stay. Today his paintings are displayed throughout the world including the United States White House. You can view landscapes painted by Beanie at the A. E. Backus Museum and Gallery located on Indian River Drive in Fort Pierce, Florida. Along with his artwork, paintings by the Florida Highwaymen and many other local artists are on display. I am blessed to have seen Backus paint and witness his talent and generosity first hand.
With that said, I want my students to understand the rich art heritage that the Treasure Coast has to offer. I want them to understand that an artist can be influenced by where they live, and at the same time, influence the place they live. That is why I have put together a unit for art educators called Art and Place. Throughout the unit students will make art as they explore the art related to the place where they live. You can view the project by clicking on the button below..