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

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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.

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