Lewis Boone Watkins was an accomplished artist from Brooksville. Internationally, his artwork is part of permanent collections in the National Museum in Santiago, Chile and the Vatican Museum in Italy. Nationwide his work is displayed at the West Virginia Fine Arts and Cultural Center, John Davis Fine Arts Center in West Virginia, Leslie Stephens Fine Arts Center in Alabama, Florida State Museum, in the State Capitols of Florida, West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee, not to mention numerous other private, corporate college and university collections.
Mr. Watkins produced artwork from watercolor paintings to sculptures, but is best known for his sculptures. He created the “The Crosses of Life” to commemorate Polish Solidarity. He carved a limestone boulder with sculptural relief depicting the history of Hernando County in “Hernando Heritage” which is displayed at Pasco Hernando State College’s North Campus.
He has several sculptures at St. Leo University including “The Walk of St. Leo.” This steel sculpture is dedicated to Pope Leo the Great which stands in the plaza now known as the Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library. On Founders Day, November 10, 1984, St. Leo University unveiled the steel sculpture of Pope Leo the Great.
He also built the large freestanding sculpture “A World of Knowledge” outside the Brooksville Main Library. Mr. Watkins says he built the sculpture for the “aesthetic value” and he wished to represent the “the turning of books in a library.” His sculpture located at the West Hernando library is dynamic. While it does not move, the sculpture appears differently from various vantage points. The West Hernando Library sculpture was unveiled on October 31, 1987. It was donated by Mid State Federal Savings and Soroptimist International of West Hernando.
His most famous project was “The American Farmer” which was a three panel bronze sculpture with larger than life figures. “The American Farmer” is on permanent display at the Agricultural Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas. It is the centerpiece of the National Farmers Memorial.
In the May 1987 issue of the educational Highlights for Children magazine, the article “A Sculpture Takes Form” shows Watkins creating the sculpture “The American Farmer” and talking to young students from Wider Horizons School in Spring Hill about how he creates his sculptures.
The “Uptown Gallery” which is upstairs at the Brooksville City Hall has some of Lewis Watkins’ Historical Prints. You can also find some of his prints on ebay.
Mr. Watkins was one of the founders of the Ted Williams Museum which was formerly in Citrus County before it was moved to Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Mr. Watkins created lithographs and prints which were used to raise money for the museum. He also worked with many other baseball greats including Pete Rose and Stan Musial.
Mr. Watkins received many accolades for his artwork including being recognized by the State of Florida for Outstanding Achievement in 1982. The Hernando County Commission approved a proclamation declaring Lewis Watkins Day in 1981.
Mr. Watkins served as the artist in residence at the Boxwood Gallery and then the Casa Serena Gallery in Brooksville. He also taught gifted students for the Hernando County School System.
Mr. Watkins married Marinda Ann Hogan the daughter of Thomas Hogan and they had three children Reynolds Watkins, Sheridan, and Marinda Watkins. Mr. Watkins died August 28, 2004 in Brooksville at the age of 59.
Lewis Watkins created many works of art for us to remember him by. His works are widely varied from a carved limestone boulder to a modern abstract metal sculpture to large bronze panels depicting Rockwellian scenes of American Life.
This story has been corrected from the original printed article to reflect the correct location of Watkins’ sculpture “World of Knowledge,” as the Main Library in downtown Brooksville. The sculpture on the front page located at West Hernando Library was incorrectly labeled as “World of Knowledge.”