The Art of Excavation: Wells Sawyer’s Watercolors at the Marco Island Historical Museum | Entertainment


The Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM) features The Art of Digging: The Watercolors of Wells Sawyer, From October 26, 2022 to January 19, 2023. Carvelli Restaurant Group is the main sponsor. An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, October 26 from 5-6:30 p.m. For those wishing to test their artistic skills, free watercolor kits will be available to MIHM visitors while supplies last.

Wells Moses Sawyer, an important American painter, was the expedition artist of the famous 1896 Pepper-Hearst Expedition to Marco Island which discovered the famous cat Key Marco – currently on display at MIHM until 2026.

Six of Sawyer’s original watercolors of the Key Marco artifacts as discovered are on loan from the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. In addition, 25 reproductions of his works are on loan for the exhibition from the National Anthropological Archives of the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Because they were buried in oxygen-free mud that preserved them for hundreds of years, the Key Marco artifacts were remarkably intact down to their original paint colors. While many disintegrated upon exposure to air, Sawyer captured them in his black and white paintings and photographs before they were lost forever.

According to Austin Bell, Curator of Collections at the Marco Island Historical Society, “Sawyer’s works not only document some of the best-known evidence of Florida’s early Native peoples, but also demonstrate his immense skill and talent as an artist. The now-iconic watercolors, which first fused the arts and sciences more than a century ago, continue to spark inquiry while serving as timeless visual links to Florida’s past.

The Key Marco Cat is reunited on Marco Island with many other rare pre-Columbian Native American artifacts dating between 500 and 1,500 years old discovered with it by Smithsonian anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing. Known as one of the most important finds in the history of American archaeology, the enigmatic feline is on loan to MIHM from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History until 2026. Sixteen other key artifacts from Marco are on loan from the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Archeology and Anthropology until 2024.

Marco’s key artifacts are featured in the award-winning permanent exhibition MIHM Paradise Found: 6,000 Years of People on Marco Island. This exhibit features a life-size Calusa village and over 300 pre-Columbian Native American artifacts from Marco Island. Original artwork depicts Calusa life and ceremonies and the 1896 archaeological expedition that unearthed the artifacts that reveal some of their long-hidden stories. A Calusa-inspired soundtrack by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning composer Kat Epple enhances the immersive visitor experience.

The Marco Island Historical Museum is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free entry. For more information, call 239-389-6447 or visit

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