For 25 years, the Barbara Hinton's Eyeopener Tours has visited Houston's many "visionary environments" and folk arts treasures, introducing tour-goers to our peculiar, largely unknown cultural assets. Starting with the Orange Show Monument, where the tours are based, the tours have helped to bring attention to ephemeral or underappreciated treasures, leading to their preservation and recognition.
To celebrate 25 years, this month's tour comprises a sort of "Best Of" circuit, including guided tours of the now-iconic Orange Show Monument and the Beer Can House. Both of them have undergone major restoration this summer and are "shinier now than they have been in 30 years," says tour guide Barbara Hinton.
"The original tours just dealt with the visionary environment," Hinton continues. "We've broadened that to include other visually exciting ways that our community shows its art. One of our most popular tours now is of places of worship." They have also toured public art, murals, international food markets and private homes.
Some of the past destinations of the Eyeopener Tours have since been demolished or closed, meaning that the tour-goers have been some of the last to see them in their original locations. The Hyde Park Miniature Museum, once in the attic space of a private home and now in storage, last saw public exhibition in a gallery space, outside its native context. Ida Kingsbury's home packed with homemade yard art is long gone, though her works survive today at the Grassroots Museum in Lucas, Kansas.
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The tours have visited the home of Cleveland Turner, the "Flower Man," now in his third location. He is showing his work these days at the Contemporary Arts Museum and Discovery Green, in part because the Eyeopener Tours have recognized his creative expression and brought so many people to visit him.
Hinton continues to scout and add new locations. The upcoming tour includes a home off Cavalcade, where retired welder Isaac Long has installed metal objects and signs with inspiring messages that have the power to save your soul. Another location is a "very special private space" that she can't bear to divulge just yet. It's just too good a secret.
The tour starts from the Orange Show Monument at 2402 Munger on September 25 at 1 p.m. and returns at 6 p.m. Sixty dollars for nonmembers (and $40 for members) gets you a five-hour guided tour as well as snacks, beer and wine aboard a luxury coach. Register online.