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Dealer of the Month

 

 Showcasing

Dealer of the Month Banner #279

 Dealer of the Month

 

Specializing in Florida art, Frank and Nancy Mannino are long standing dealers and friends of Avonlea Antiques & Design Gallery, and like many in the arts and antiques business they started as avid collectors! Whether their collecting habits are an affliction or an addiction is still a debatable question that Frank and Nancy pose to each other, however, they will freely admit that after over 15 years as collectors their enjoyment of Florida art has outweighed the cost and it will continue to do so. 

Natives of the Upper East Coast, Nancy and Frank, who holds a BS in Business, started off their professional life in challenging positions in large corporations such as Motorola. However, Frank had too much energy to be confined to an office job and soon became self-employed through the buying, construction and selling real estate, along with a number of franchised businesses. They never looked back.

In 1986, Frank and Nancy decided to sell up in the Northern states and move to sunnier climes to Palm Coast, Florida.  It was here that the fun began for Frank and Nancy with their art and antiques business. One day Frank was talking to Mark, a technician whom he employed in another professional offshoot, a vending machine business that is still going strong today. Frank recounts hearing of the Florida Highwaymen for the first time as a story that inspired him and one that changed his life forever!

It began with a simple question in which Mark asked Frank “have you ever heard of the Highwaymen?” Frank replied “of course, yes”, thinking he was talking about the country-singing group! However, Mark soon set the record straight about the Florida Highwaymen who were a group of artists that would sell their painting from the trunks of their cars.

It seems hard to believe now considering the recognition that the Florida Highwaymen have received and the acclaim that their work continues to evoke, that back in the 50s and 60s African Americans had no place to sell their paintings here in Florida. There were just no galleries that would accept their works, so the artists would sell them on the road going door to door. The prices would range from $10 for 12”x24” to $25 for a 24”x36”.

Frank quickly became enamoured with the Florida Highwaymen and keen to expand his knowledge. He started by reading “The Highwaymen” by Gary Monroe and moved onto study the plates of landscape examples.

Frank had always been a keen collector of items ranging from stamps and coins to property, yet it was during this intellectual pursuit of the Florida Highwaymen that Frank quickly discovered the true impact of the artistic group and their paintings. The story of the twenty-five men and one woman helping each other to overcome the overwhelming obstacles gave a whole new meaning to “entrepreneurial” in Frank’s eyes. He was so inspired by their spirit to succeed and that no wall would stand in their way to success, that he realized their story should be told to everyone, not just in Florida, but the whole country.

The first person that Frank had to inspire that they needed to start looking for these Florida landscapes, painted on upson board, masonite, plywood, glass, cardboard, and of course artist board and canvas, was Nancy, his wife. Thankfully for Frank and all of us at Avonlea, Nancy has very similar good taste in collecting and they began their adventure of collecting paintings from each of the Highwaymen artists. Together they travelled throughout the state of Florida exploring antique malls, galleries, garage sales, estate sales and Highwaymen Shows, collecting works of the Highwaymen artists.

After collecting one vintage painting from each artist, a more recent painting by each of the Highwaymen was acquired for the Mannino collection. Then the couple began collecting the work of the second-generation artists (Highwaymen Sons & Daughters). The collection of works amassed by Frank and Nancy grew so large that there was not enough room in their home to show them all!

The love for the work of the Florida Highwayman inspired in Frank and Nancy a total appreciation for Florida art. Whilst still collecting Highwaymen pieces other keen areas of collection is Indian River art inspired by Albert “Bean” Backus of Fort Pierce, St. Augustine “Lost Colony” art amongst a host of other areas of Florida art. After amassing such a large collection the next step for Frank and Nancy was to become dealers of Florida Art, proudly showcasing at Avonlea Antiques & Design Gallery.

Frank always tells customers to buy what they like. If you are buying for an investment, always buy one of a kind, original paintings. For home designing and decorating, prints and giclées are fine, however they will not work for financial portfolios. In the end, Frank and Nancy’s advice is "to be adventurous in life and try something new. Life is too short to not look around the next corner and you may be surprised by what you find, whether an affliction or addiction, it can also be tremendous fun!"

 

Avonlea is proud to have one of the largest collections of Highwaymen paintings in Florida. Whether you are looking to buy as an investment, or just because you love the artwork, check out the selection that Avonlea has to offer both in store and online.