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Hall of fame induction set for April 9 for painter of Seminole life

Guy LaBree working on a painting in his studio in 2014. (File photo)

After a long delay due to the pandemic, artists from the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 will be inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

The class of 2020 includes painter Guy LaBree and singer/songwriter Rita Coolidge. The ceremony will be April 9 in Tallahassee.

LaBree died Jan. 1, 2015, at age 73.

“Inducting into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed on artists by the State of Florida,” Secretary of State Laurel Lee said in a statement. “Induction in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame recognizes our state’s most distinguished artists who have made significant contributions to their craft and whose work continues to inspire millions of people in Florida, the United States, and globally.”

LaBree grew up in Dania, attended school with tribal members and spent his career painting Seminole history, legends, culture and people. His paintings are popular collectables among tribal members. The self-taught artist’s life work includes about 1,000 paintings, of which 500 are Seminole related. He also illustrated Betty Mae Jumper’s book “Legend of the Seminoles” and was commissioned by tribal families to paint their portraits.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has about 40 LaBree pieces in its collection and was instrumental in him being nominated. Since 2017, the museum assisted Carol Mahler, author of “Guy LaBree: Barefoot Artist of the Florida Seminoles,” with the nomination process by providing letters of support. It took until 2020 for inclusion in the hall of fame to be granted.

“No one else has painted the battles the way the Seminoles see it, with very little clothing,” museum collections manager Tara Backhouse said when the nomination was announced in 2020. “His are more realistic; they didn’t fight in long shirts.”

The class of 2021 consists of illustrator Mary GrandPre and cinematographer, producer and director Tom Fitz. The class of 2022 includes performer Wayne Brady, visual artist Buster Kenton, painter Sandra Lloyd and painter Bob Ross.

The hall of fame, established in 1986 by the legislature, recognizes people, alive or deceased, who have made significant contributions to the arts in Florida. The hall of fame consists of more than 50 inductees including singer Ray Charles, actor Burt Reynolds, writers Zora Neale Hurston, Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemmingway, filmmaker Victor Nunez and visual artists Duane Hanson, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist.

This painting of a Seminole girl is part of Guy LaBree’s collection. (File photo)
Many of Guy LaBree’s paintings depict Seminole life. (File photo)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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