The Art Car Parade Rolls In Differently This Year

Houston's Orange Show For Visionary Art has organized Daytime and Nighttime Experiences for visitors will all events taking place at The Orange Show Monument from May 14-16.
Houston's Orange Show For Visionary Art has organized Daytime and Nighttime Experiences for visitors will all events taking place at The Orange Show Monument from May 14-16. Photo By Emily Jaschke
The Houston Art Car Parade has been a yearly tradition since 1988 and one of the city's most festive and eclectic celebrations of artists in the community. Every year the much anticipated event is sandwiched into a fun weekend where art cars can be seen cruising all around Houston’s busy streets.

Last year the parade and all of the surrounding events were canceled, but this year, true to their mission to encourage creative self-expression, The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art found a new and adaptive way to do things.

The Art Car Experience will take place the weekend of May 14-16 with daytime and nighttime events planned to allow Houston to celebrate and engage with the art cars and celebrate Houston. For those looking to get an early start on the festivities, Houston photographer Emily Jaschke will host an opening for her solo photo exhibit, Full Metal Jaschke at the Mid Main Gallery on May 8.

“I've learned in my short time here that art car artists are a ton of fun so I think it's going to be a fun weekend,” says newly appointed executive director of The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art Tommy Ralph Pace.

Pace, who is new to Houston and will mark his first art car experience with this event, has no doubt that though different than years past; this year will be just as great for the Art Car Parade and The Orange Show.

“My favorite part about it is that the Art Car Parade, and of course this Art Car Experience, has really just developed into a way for Houston to celebrate itself and its creativity. We really looked this year to figure out what is the best way we could celebrate art car artists and provide them a platform to show off the work that they do and do it in the safest way possible.”

People can purchase tickets online for a rare chance to see the amazing work done by the artists at close range as The Orange Show Monument will have 80 cars parked in the property surrounding the building and adjacent Smither Park.

This year's format, though temporary as the 2022 parade is already scheduled for April 9, will provide not only the chance to absorb the details of these incredible creations, but also allow visitors to become more familiar with Houston’s one of a kind architectural wonder The Orange Show Monument and Smither Park, both hidden gems within the community and a part of the organization that puts on the parade every year.

Tickets for the daytime experience are scheduled by hourly visits and visitors should buy tickets online prior to the event. There is plenty of space to practice social distancing and masks are required.

The daytime experience will also feature activities and crafts for children as well as QR codes near the cars, which will provide information on the car and artist as well as additional photos making this year's event a more interactive, self paced experience.

For an event that usually is pretty open to participants, this year's format presented yet another new challenge for organizers as they had to choose only 80 cars due to space constraints, versus the usual over 200 participating cars.

“We really did our best to pick the best of the best to make sure that all the different factions of the art car community were represented well,” says Pace who describes working closely with the city’s Art Car community.

“We worked with them to make a selection of the most representative cars from each of the categories, whether that's contraptions, daily drivers or painted cars. It was a selection process but we worked closely with the community to make that happen and we certainly look forward to 2022 when we can get back to our regular model of having people apply and being a much more open affair.”

The annual and much anticipated Art Car Ball also had to be reformatted for the current restrictions due to COVID-19. Usually held at Hermann Square outside of City Hall, this year the event will be a two-day concert held at the Orange Show Monument featuring some of Houston’s best bands helping to take Houstonians out of the COVID-19 funk with some actual funk.

“That is part of our mission here in Houston is just to increase everyone's happiness so we are looking forward to doing that,” says Pace.

“That is part of our mission here in Houston is just to increase everyone's happiness so we are looking forward to doing that."

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On Friday May 14, Splice Records bands Bayou City Funk and Tomar and The FCs will be performing and the following night Los Skarnales and The Suffers will take the stage. Tickets for Saturday night have already sold out but there are still tickets available for Friday night.

For the evening experiences there will be an illuminated art car walk, performance art and installations. Costumes are encouraged, as usual, and cocktails along with St. Arnold’s beer and food trucks will be available for purchase. Masks are required when not eating or drinking.

“One of the things that Jonathan Beitler (media relations and marketing) worked really hard on was making sure that this was an opportunity to celebrate our local artists community and celebrate our local music community,” says Pace.

“A lot of these artists have not had gigs in over a year and we are just thrilled to be able to pay them, celebrate them and give them the opportunity to engage with their fans here in the outdoor setting. We are pumped,” he adds. 
Beitler describes how The Suffers performed for one of their first full band gigs at The Orange Show Monument in 2013 and the joy he has felt seeing them go on to national attention and acclaim as well as welcoming them back.

“Both nights, both bands are very closely related so we are going to get to see some really cool magic happen on stage. I have no doubt that both nights we will see collaborations between the bands on stage and that's going to be really fun,” says Beitler.

When asked to weigh in on the irony of how so many have turned to the arts for inspiration and relief this year while the arts have suffered some of the largest economic hardships due to the shutdowns Pace answers thoughtfully,

“I think what it really points to is just how integral creativity, arts and culture are to what makes us human and when our humanity is stressed or imperiled, like its been over the last year we turn to things that comfort us and the arts are absolutely one of them.”

“That’s why we have to continue to support arts in our cities and arts education in our schools because it's not just a frivolous extra activity, it is a core component of what makes us human,” he adds.

Emily Jaschke's solo exhibit, Full Metal Jaschke will open on Saturday, May 8 at The Mid Main Gallery, 3550 Main Street from 6 to 9 p.m, free

The Art Car Experience will take from Friday May 14 to Sunday May 16 at The Orange show, 3224 Gulf Terminal. Daytime Experience tickets available for purchase online and by the hour with appointments available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, $12/adults, $6.50/children 12 and under.

The Nighttime Experience will take place Friday May 14 with Bayou City Funk and Tomar and The FCs and Saturday May 15 with The Suffers and Los Skarnales at The Orange Show, 3224 Gulf Gate Terminal, 7:00 p.m. to 11 p.m, tickets $43.25/general admission and $1,034.25/VIP Table of Four. May 15 Nighttime Experience is Sold Out.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes