Gov. Scott appoints featured artist for Black History Month


ST. PETERSBURG — Bradenton-based artist Arthur Dillard has been named the featured artist for Black History Month 2016 by Florida Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott.

The theme for Florida’s Black History Month this year is “Honoring African American Heroes,” collectively including members of the military, law enforcement officers and first responders. First Lady Scott selected over 20 of Dillard’s paintings to be displayed between the governor’s building in and the R.A. Gray Building, Dept. of State in Tallahassee.

Dillard, a nationally renowned artist, instructor and lecturer, has exhibited his painting in galleries and museums throughout the country, recently at Gallerie 909 as part of its “Splash of Sarasota” exhibit. His work was even displayed at the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education in Washington, D.C.

Dillard’s work will also be on the state website, starting this month through Dec. 2016.

Dealing primarily in watercolors, the 66 year old said the phone call he received from the governor’s office that let him know that he had been chosen as the state’s featured artist came completely out of the blue.

“I was surprised!” he declared. “I’ve just been doing what I do for the last 20 years, and it just happened!”

Someone had evidently recommended his artwork to the governor and the first lady, Dillard said, which led to his being selected over other state artists.  The governor and first lady looked at his website and selected about 26 pieces of his and then the governor’s office asked Dillard if these works would be available. Dillard noted that a recent exhibit at the Gadsden Art Center in Quincy, Fla., which is about 26 miles away from the state’s capital, might have factored into the decision to select him as the featured artist.

With a degree from Florida A & M University, Dillard took a job as an engineer yet still made a point of painting nearly every day. After 20 years he decided to follow his muse all the way and fully devote his time to creating his unique artwork. He has a style all his own as he uses up to 20 coats of watercolor, which makes his work stand apart from conventional watercolorist.

Dillard was also somewhat of a pioneer when early in his artistic career he painted black and white watercolors, which he believes no one had previously done. His subjects vary from famous figures such as Barack Obama and Thurgood Marshall to everyday scenes like idyllic rural settings and children at play.

In addition of the accolade of being named featured artist, he will be honored with a reception at the governor’s mansion next month.

“What I’m happy about is that I was selected for doing something I love doing,” he said. “I paint things that I love painting…I paint things that I want our kids to remember. And that in itself is the highlight of my life.”

To celebrate Black History Month, the SouthShore Regional Library in Ruskin is currently honoring Dillard with a one-man show and will be exhibiting over 20 of his pieces into February.

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