A Beautiful, Wonderful Park for the Late Stephanie and John Smither

The Lindley Fish Amphitheater at Smither Park.
The Lindley Fish Amphitheater at Smither Park.
Photo courtesy of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art

Stephanie and John Smither continue to receive must-deserved respect.

This weekend, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, during its Authentic, Raw & True: A Weekend of Celebrating Visionary and Self-Taught Art event, pays homage to the crucial Houston art philanthropists who spent their lives collecting and advocating for folk art as a serious and gallery-worthy art form.

“One thing I personally learned from [Stephanie Smither] is that nothing is quite what’s at the surface in regards to art,” says Jonathan Beitler of the Orange Show. “Art is a very subjective thing. Some art scholars didn’t consider the art she collected as museum quality, which is something she recognized. She fought hard, and now the Menil is showing her collection.”

Stephanie passed away on June 12, three days after the jam-packed unveiling of “As Essential as Dreams: Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Stephanie and John Smither” at The Menil Collection. Stephanie, who was 75 at the time of her death, attended the opening.

After John passed away in 2002, Stephanie, an Orange Show board member, started working with artist Dan Phillips in putting together a creative outdoor space in memory of her late husband. Approximately 300 nationwide artists contributed gorgeous mosaic designs that bathe nearly every inch of the green space that’s located next door to the Orange Show.

Smither Park – which includes an amphitheater, a pavilion, aswingset, a meditation garden, a coin tower and a 400-foot-long memory wall featuring 50 one-of-a-kind, artist-designed panels – grand opens this weekend with artists in attendance and headliner Los Skarnales.

The Smither Park Grand Opening & Fundraiser will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. September 30 at Smither Park, 2441 Munger. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit orangeshow.org. $25 to $50.

Can't make the party? Come back Saturday or Sunday for the Houston Visionary Art Bus Tour, with stops at Smither Park, The Orange Show Monument, the Beer Can House and The Menil Collection. The luxury coach art bus tours run from 1 to 4 p.m. October 1 and 2. The Menil Collection, 1533 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit Eventbrite. $75.

Organizers have been calling Smither Park a "work of art in progress." The pavilion, the amphitheater and the swings opened to the public two years ago, though hundreds of artists are still working on the mosaics.
Organizers have been calling Smither Park a "work of art in progress." The pavilion, the amphitheater and the swings opened to the public two years ago, though hundreds of artists are still working on the mosaics.
Photo courtesy of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
Smither Park's "work of art in progress" began six years ago with the memory wall. Since that time professional artists, amateur artists and creative non-artists have continued working on the mosaic.
Smither Park's "work of art in progress" began six years ago with the memory wall. Since that time professional artists, amateur artists and creative non-artists have continued working on the mosaic.
Photo courtesy of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
"The idea of the park really comes from the ethos of The Orange Show, which is celebrating the artist in everyone, supporting the idea of art for everyone," says spokesman Jonathan Beitler.
"The idea of the park really comes from the ethos of The Orange Show, which is celebrating the artist in everyone, supporting the idea of art for everyone," says spokesman Jonathan Beitler.
Photo courtesy of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
Close-up of the Oshman Meditation Garden.
Close-up of the Oshman Meditation Garden.
Photo courtesy of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
Another shot of the Smither Park memory wall. Come meet the artists who worked on Smither Park at this grand opening celebration on September 30. Ticket sales go toward the ongoing maintenance of Smither Park.
Another shot of the Smither Park memory wall. Come meet the artists who worked on Smither Park at this grand opening celebration on September 30. Ticket sales go toward the ongoing maintenance of Smither Park.
Photo courtesy of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art

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