Useppa Island Historical Society

Past Exhibits

Past Exhibits:

John Costin: The Birds of Florida

January, 2016 to August, 2016

A resident of Ybor City (Tampa), FL, John pursues an interest capturing in visual form the rich and diverse bird life and other subjects of his home state. With a background in contemporary art, he creates life size images of birds that explore nuances indigenous to that species. “Through my art I strive to capture and personify birds, enriching the viewer’s perception of this particular form of wildlife which they may rarely have an opportunity to intimately experience…….” Working in the etching medium, he creates complex and colorful images of birds, botanicals and other subjects that enrich the viewers’ perception.

While attending the University of South Florida he studied Intaglio art that piqued his interest in etching and continues to this day. It is a way of combining graphics, painting, sculpture, and engineering into one art form. Starting with a polished plate of copper, the image is directly etched by hand on the plate as if it were a canvas. This process takes from 6-8 weeks to complete. These plates are then skillfully wiped down with ink by hand, and then printed on high quality rag paper. Afterwards these printed images are hand painted with oil paints for rich color quality and subtle nuances of detail, making each piece unique.

The medium has an extremely large range of possibilities, giving many directions for his imagination to explore. The visual qualities are very enticing: colors ranging from subtle to intense, black tones going from delicate to velvety black, textures that are limited only by one’s imagination, and lines that range from needle thin to broad and bold.


John has been a professional artist since 1979, exhibiting in numerous shows and winning awards throughout the south. His work can be found in collections at Eckerd College, Ferman Motor Car Company, General Motors Corporation, Shutts & Bowen, Tampa Bay History Center, Bankers Insurance, State Library of Florida, University of Miami, Raymond James Financial, Inc., Tampa Museum of Art, and the Polk Museum of Art to name a few. He currently is creating a book of his etchings depicting the large birds of Florida. The book is registered with the Library of Congress.

The Etching Process – A PBS Video

 The Orange: A Florida Icon

February, 2015 to August, 2015

The Useppa Island Historical Society and the Barbara Sumwalt Museum presents a special exhibit, “The Orange: A Florida Icon” from February 2015 to August 2015.

The story of the orange is so entwined in the Florida dream that this agricultural produce is considered part of the “natural” landscape. The orange blossom is Florida’s official state flower, the orange the official state fruit, and since 1998 the orange has served as the emblem on state license plates.

Our new exhibit chronicles the history of this iconic fruit beginning with the Spanish in colonial St. Augustine to present day, courtesy of the Florida Humanities Magazine’s magazine Forum, Dr. Gary Mormino, and the Florida State Archives, and on loan from the Museum of Florida History, a collection of 24 original orange crate labels that represent thousands used in Florida between the late 1800s and the 1960s.

Florida Cowboys 

January 18, 2014                                      

The Useppa Island Historical Society has opened a new temporary exhibit in the Barbara Sumwalt Museum called “Florida Cowboys” featuring the photography of conservation photographer Carlton Ward Jr. and cowboy memorabilia.  The exhibit portrays the history and the present day life of the cowboy and cattle ranching in the state.  Florida was the first state in the country to begin cattle ranching in 1605 and is now home to over 15,000 ranches.  One of the ranches is the largest beef producer in the nation, and six are in the top ten. They cover nearly a fifth of the state of Florida, protecting the endangered species that occupy their land and the state’s water resources. The exhibit will be on display through May 2014.

Ft. Myers  

March, 2012 – December, 2013                                

Our newest exhibit is in honor of Ft. Myers, the City of Palms, and the celebration of the city’s 125th birthday.

On display is a photo collection circa early 1900’s, showcasing Ft. Myers during the days of Thomas and Mina Edison.

The photographs were made available to the museum by Mr. Woody Hanson and the Hanson Family Archives.

Seminole Miccosukee Indians

February 2011 – March 2012

The Hanson Family Archives is a collection of more than 1,000 historic documents and images from 1884 to the mid 20th century, passed down through five generations of one of Fort Myers’ first families.

This exhibit displayed some of the early photographs from the Seminole-Miccosukee Indians recorded by W. Stanley Hanson ( 1883-1945), dubbed “the White Medicine Man,” who was a trusted advisor to the Indians from the early part of the 20th century until his death in 1945. With the permission of his tribal friends, he recorded their lives in hundreds of photographs, writings and drawings, illuminating a world that had been invisible to outsiders.

This exhibit was made possible by the generosity of Woody Hanson, fifth generation Fort Myers resident and the grandson of W. Stanley Hanson.


Fraser Smith Sculptures

December, 2010 – January, 2011

This exhibit displayed the extraordinary wood carvings of Fraser Smith. Mr. Smith specializes in sculptures that may weigh more than 60 pounds and take hundreds of hours to complete the process of sanding, carving and painting. Once finished he has created pieces of art that appear to be made from cloth and can fool the average eye.

He began wood carving as a hobby in the 80’s and sold his first piece for $10,000 which took over a year to make. Throughout the years he has made over 30 quilts, jackets, and hats and is represented in galleries and on display in museums throughout the country.

Florida’s Grand Canyon 

February, 2017 to August, 2017

Bill Belleville is an award-winning nature writer and documentary filmmaker. His themes include nature, conservation, and “sense of place”. Bill has written seven books, including his most recent publication, Peace of Blue, which won a Florida Book Award for Non-Fiction. He has also contributed to eight national anthologies, written over 1,000 articles & essays, and scripted and co-produced eight films—as well as several NPR documentaries. New York Times best -selling author Carl Hiaasen said of his work: “Bill Belleville writes gorgeously and straight from the heart.”

Bill has been featured on C-Span Books and has lectured widely throughout Florida, as well as at the California Academy of Sciences, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and other highly-regarded venues.

Bill’s work, which includes several oceanographic expeditions as a diver, has taken him to Barrier Reef of Australia, the White Sea of Russia, the Galapagos, Central and South America, Cuba and throughout the Antilles. Florida remains his favorite place for its natural diversity and wonderful surrealism.

Permanent Exhibits

Temporary Exhibits

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