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News Story
Updated: 02/16/2017 08:30:01AM

HCA exhibit to fearture art from

rare salvaged sunken cypress logs

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Courtesy photo

A diver brings up a sunken cypress log from a north Florida river. The wood could have been submerged for as long as 100 years.

Courtesy photo

A piece of "deadhead" lumber was crafted into a corner shelf while still maintaining the wood's natural beauty.

Courtesy photo

A glass-top coffee table was crafted from ancient cypress wood salvaged from river beds.


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AVON PARK –– The Heartland Cultural Alliance will host its first guest exhibit at the Peter Powell Roberts Museum of Art & Culture from 5:30-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17.

The exhibit is a part of HCA’s collaboration with the Florida Masters Collection to bring professionally curated art exhibits to Highlands County.

Friday’s exhibit is titled “The Story of Waterwood, AKA Deadhead Lumber” and will be featured in a champagne and caviar fundraiser, in partnership with Highlands Little Theater.

The artist is John Clayton, a master diver and sawyer. He creates furniture and sculptures from the rare sunken cypress logs he salvages.

Artist Jim Fitch, founder of the Museum of Florida Art and Culture at South Florida State College, will also exhibit his cypress picture frames and various home décor items. The wood that Clayton salvages is also used to make these creations.

The history of deadhead lumber is quite interesting. In the early 20th century, cypress trees were harvested for their durable and versatile lumber. The logs were transported by floating them downriver. Some became waterlogged and sank to the bottom. Recovering the timbers and turning the wood into a work of art is a complicated process.

Divers have to deal with deep, dark water, strong currents, and even snakes and alligators. The process is worth the effort when the wood is dried and cut, allowing the beautiful grain to show through, providing the artist a canvas to create a piece of history.

Featured at the reception will be presentations by the artists. Those attending will have the first chance to acquire unique exhibit pieces. The cost to attend the special event is $30 for members of HCA and $35 for non-members.

To reserve tickets call 863-453-4531 or e-mail

The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday Feb. 18. A reception will be held from 5-7 p.m. with beverages and snacks, a raffle and music. There is no cost to attend the Saturday reception, however donations are appreciated.

The exhibit will be open through March. The museum is at 310 West Main Street in Avon Park.