FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An iconic Treasure Coast artist whose paintings of Old Florida inspired joy and hope has passed away at the age of 79.
Mary Ann Carroll, a Fort Pierce native, was best known as the First Lady of the famed Highwaymen landscape artists.
Carroll got her start during the Jim Crow era when black landscape artists weren't recognized.
"26 kids who were destined for migrant labor work their entire lives broke that ceiling and empowered themselves to become artists," said Steve Carr.
The beautiful artwork of the Highwaymen and their story of perseverance is what inspired Carr to collect their stories and share them with the community. His research led to a 19-year friendship with Carroll.
"She was a single mother almost her entire life, raising seven children, and she also pastored a church in Fort Pierce," said Carr. "And she did all of this by supporting herself through the creation of art. I think I’m just enamored by the overall grace of the woman. But then her talent for art is something else. Again, when you put that all into one package, it just adds up to be one incredible person."
Carr said Carroll didn't seek fame, even after being honored by Michelle Obama. Carroll’s work went from being sold on the side of highway to displayed in the White House and around the world.
"Mary Ann was an amazing lady and you felt like you were different in her presence," said Carr. "She changed you, she made you think inwardly, and it wasn’t so much about her success as an artist or a celebrity. It was just being around a person who consistently showed you a example of what humanity should be."
Carroll's funeral will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, located at 921 Orange Ave. in Fort Pierce.