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​April 7, 2016 
With a rebel yell: Remembering artist Stanley Papio 

​There’s a kinetic parade coming to town on May 14th that celebrates creativity, innovation, and a Florida Keys man well ahead of his time: Stanley Papio, a folk artist with a clever sense of satire and a tenacity that continues to reverberate 34 years after his passing.
“Barefoot” Stanley Papio arrived in Key Largo in 1949, when the upper Keys were little more than an isolated stretch of highway on U.S. 1. He contentedly lived at Mile Marker 101 for many years, using his welding skills acquired in the U.S. Army during World War II for both commercial and creative purposes. Over time, his yard, piled high with old cars, washing machines, and other metal appliances all surrounded by a welded bed spring fence, became a treasure trove of recyclable materials that he would transform into art.

Unfortunately, as the area developed and the space between he and his neighbors diminished, what he saw as potential art, others simply called junk.

“I don’t have a junkyard,” Papio once said. “That’s all my future works out there, but you can’t tell that to people with nothing in their heads. Even when I’m done with something, they think it’s just garbage because it’s made out of junk.”

Despite disagreeable neighbors and the mounting pressure they imposed (which included his being jailed 6 times for zoning violations), his innovative and rebellious spirit would continue to evolve; Papio went on to create “satirical metal sculptures that depicted his neighbors, naysayers and people he considered to be ‘environmental rapists,’” says Key West Art & Historical Society Curator Cori Convertito, PhD.

“He transformed his collected metal into extraordinary pieces of art, many that tell a story of the defilement of the natural beauty of the Florida Keys,” says Convertito.

True to his irreverent nature, Papio renamed his welding shop “Stanley’s Art Museum” and charged a quarter for admission, inadvertently creating a roadside exhibition of folk art for travelers as well as a repository for his often comical and caustic creations. Critics, collectors and museum owners eventually discovered this outsider artist, all recognizing his creativity, imagination, and remarkable welding skills. He later exhibited in Canada, and again in Europe as part of the U.S. State Department’s America Now exhibition tour, and has since been listed in the Directory of American Folk Art and The World Encyclopedia of Naive Art.

Papio’s vision to have a traveling exhibition ended abruptly when he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 67 in 1982. But the essence of Stanley Papio would live on through his work, which was donated by his family shortly after his death to the Key West Art and Historical Society. Today, the Society houses more than 100 of his restored sculptural objects and other three­dimensional constructions at Fort East Martello Museum and is in eager preparation to unveil a newly renovated, climate­controlled permanent exhibit of his work.

“He is long overdue for attention and respect as one of the Florida Keys’ pioneering folk artists,” says Convertito. “The Society is elated to give Papio his just desserts; honoring his legacy with the Kinetic Parade and a permanent exhibition.”

In the meantime, The Society encourages the community to invoke the spirit of Papio by putting together their own kinetic sculpture float teams or art bike for the Inaugural Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade on May 14th. Chances are you’ve got something to say and neighbors that won’t mind a bit if you raid their recycling bins­ so sign up now!

Details on the May 14th exhibit are coming soon; For parade information, event schedule, registration, entry guidelines and pre­parade workshop information, visit The Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade is supported in part by The Knight Foundation Knight Arts Challenge, The Helmerich Trust, the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
Your Museums. Your Community. It takes an Island. 

(Images later)

Portrait of sculptor Stanley Papio in Key Largo, Florida, 1977. Photo provided by Florida Department of State, Division of Library & Information Services.

Cori Convertito, Phd., interacts with a Stanley Papio sculpture titled 'Las Vegas Model' that is presently on display at Fort East Martello. The historic Fort will soon house a permanent exhibit of more than 100 of the rebel artist's works.