/ The Houston Guide

Art Car Museum & Parade

houston, contemporary artWe only spent an hour or so at the Houston ArtCar Museum; one hour on a rainy and humid Saturday afternoon.¬† That’s all it took to get excited about this long-standing Houston artistic tradition.¬† In a city full of museums, this one makes a lasting impression due to its unique character and charm, but also to the enthusiastic staff who clearly have a passion for what they do.

The ArtCar Museum was founded in 1998 by James & Ann Harithas, and falls squarely in the “alternative” contemporary arts category.¬† They pride themselves on featuring art (and artists) who would otherwise not get any kind of real exposure.¬† The art car community uses cars and other motorized vehicles as the¬†medium for¬†displaying their creativity, with results ranging from fantastic to bizarre to delightful.¬† And they certainly make quite a first impression – even the museum’s exterior promises a unique experience.

houston, contemporary art

Art Car Museum, nicknamed "Garage Mahal"

We were greeted at the museum by Alicia, whose knowledge of and excitement about art – and current events, politics and Houston – made us feel instantly engaged in our surroundings.¬† She let us know that the museum is currently hosting a special FotoFest installation – “Faster, Faster, Faster: A Historical Photoessay of Auto Racing in the U.S., Great Britain, & France”¬† features photographs from Kermit Ross Laurent, Charlie Stanfill and Brian Hill.¬† (I wrote about the¬†FotoFest Biennial Contemporary Photography Event back in March.)¬† There are also restored vehicles on display: a 1958 pink Cadillac, a 1932 Bantam roadster, a vintage Harley drag bike, and a 1961 Morris Minor.¬† This exhibit will remain until June 18th, after which the “usual” (if you can use that word) art cars will return for display.¬†

1958 cadillac, art car museum, houston

1958 Pink Cadillac

Alicia showed us photographs of various art cars in a book at the front counter, and she also regaled us with stories about some of her favorite art cars from past shows.¬† She explained that the cars are far from static exhibits, and that they are often used as performance pieces rather than a mere canvas on which art is created.¬† Hearing stories about the “David Koresh/Waco” art car (that went up in flames as a grand finale) and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill car (complete with men in suits handing out fake $50 bills to onlookers as “bribes” to secure their silence) made me anxious to hear more about what she told us next – there is an annual Houston Art Car Parade!¬† And, Alicia wondered, if we knew that it was the very next weekend – Saturday, May 8?¬† We did not.

The 22nd annual Art Car Parade is on May 8, 2010.¬† This year they expect over 250 art cars and up to 250,000 spectators.¬† And, as if I needed more reason to attend, this year’s Grand Marshal is none other than Dan Aykroyd!¬† Artists can submit “anything on wheels” and will come from across North America to participate in this celebration of art, culture and politics.¬† The parade is thrown by Houston’s Orange Show Center of Visionary Art, a non-profit organization dedicated to accessible, expressive contemporary art.¬† The parade is part of a full weekend of activities, starting with the Art Car Ball on Thursday May 6 and continuing on Friday May 7 with the Main Street Drag show and “Sneak Peak at Discovery Green” where cars will be on display, along with live entertainment for early-bird art car enthusiasts.¬† The weekend concludes with an awards ceremony and artist brunch on Sunday, May 9.

ArtCar Museum

Where: 140 Heights Blvd. (map)

Hours & Information: Open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 AM-6 PM; free admission.

Art Car Parade

When: Saturday May 8, 11 AM-3 PM.

Where: The parade route runs along the Allen Parkway; you can find a map of the parade route here.

Cost: Tickets for shaded seating available, $25 each; VIP tickets are available and include “the absolute best views” of the parade from the Houston Heritage Society (map) as well as open bar and catered food for $125 a ticket (children under 12, $15).¬† Free for spectators along parade route.

Photos from the personal collection of Christina Uticone & Joshua Payne

Related places:
  1. A
    Art Car Museum
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    The Heritage Society
    View Details and Book

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