History of the Houston Art Car Parade
"Houston artist Jackie Harris transformed the car into a mobile work of art with a budget of $800 for paint and plastic fruit."
In 1984, Kit and Carl Detering donated a 1967 Ford station wagon to The Orange Show Foundation to be auctioned at our annual Gala benefit. Houston artist Jackie Harris transformed the car into a mobile work of art with a budget of $800 for paint and plastic fruit. The "Fruitmobile" was donated back to the foundation by the group of six who purchased it. Also in 1984, Ann Harithas curated an exhibition called "Collision" at Lawndale Art Center that featured two art cars. All this activity resulted in a number of art cars seen on Houston streets. In 1986, Rachel Hecker and Trish Herrera organized a New Music Parade in conjunction with the New Music America Festival. Some 20 artist floats and art cars paraded down Montrose Boulevard, ending at the dedication of the MFAH sculpture garden. A few months later, Susanne Demchak organized a "Road Show" at The Orange Show on June 29, 1986, 11 art cars were exhibited alongside the Fruitmobile at The Orange Show, with Lowrider demonstrations, and children's art bike workshops. 1,400 Houstonians came, along with WFAA-TV and National Public Radio.
Roadside Attractions: The Art Car Parade was born in April, 1988 with a 40 car parade seen by an estimated 2,000.
In 1987, the Houston International Festival, the City's official celebration of the arts, asked the Orange Show to organize a parade to build on the success of the New Music Parade. The Orange Show agreed to produce an event dedicated to art cars. Roadside Attractions: The Art Car Parade was born in April, 1988 with a 40 car parade seen by an estimated 2,000. By the following year, the parade size doubled and the crowd swelled to tens of thousands. Another important milestone came in 1989, when Harrod Blank came from California with his art car, "Oh My God." On a quest to document America's art cars that eventually led to his two books and two films on art cars, Harrod told artists all over the nation about the Houston Art Car Parade, and soon we began to see caravans of art cars travel thousands of miles to be in the parade. Another major milestone was the entry of Rebecca Bass and Edison Middle School in 1990. "The Body Shop" went on to win major awards, and started educators across the city to see art car projects as tools to teach life skills and engage students with their schools and community.
The Art Car Parade Today
Today, the Art Car Parade is the highlight of a three-day celebration of the drive to create, Art Car Weekend.
- The parade attracts 250+ vehicles and other entries from 23 states along with Canada and Mexico
- A live audience of some 250,000+ spectators
- Parade entries include anything on wheels from
- unicycles to
- lawnmowers to
- cars and go-carts
- Entries are as likely to be made by members of the general public as by recognized artists
Community groups, public and private schools, and professional organizations have become regular participants. Inspired by what they see, spectators create art cars of their own and often become future participants. And as the parade grows, attracting more and more participants, the complexity and quality of the entries increases.