Arts in the Schools

Art Car Parade Revs Up For 36th Year

The Art Car Parade rolls into town later this month.
The Art Car Parade rolls into town later this month. Photo by Danitza Ladwig
Houston’s most eye-catching parade is rolling into town with sparkles, spray paint, and creativity by the spades. More than 250 masterpieces and never-before-seen creations will take to the streets as part of the 36th annual Art Car Parade. Presented by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, the lineup includes a host of events starting April 6 and culminating with the parade on Saturday, April 15 and an awards ceremony on Sunday, April 16.

Tommy Pace, Orange Show’s executive director, provided the skinny on what’s new this year for the world’s oldest and largest celebration of artistic expression on wheels.

“This year we have an incredibly exciting lineup. Half of the entries are brand new cars made specifically for this year,” he said. “Other exciting developments are, for the first time in the Art Car Parade’s history, we have partnered with the carbon footprint advisory firm Mobius Risk Group. Based on the Orange Show’s commitment to eliminating the carbon footprint of the art car parade, we have purchased more than 100 tons of carbon offset credits so we can officially say that this year's parade will be carbon neutral and will work to continue the green initiative for everything that the Orange Show does.”

Also new this year, the Orange Show will honor three individuals who have made lasting impacts on the Houston arts community. For this recognition’s inaugural year, the honorees will include sculptor and painter Sharon Kopriva, Northside High School art teacher Anna Bass, and business leaders & arts philanthropists The Mafrige Family.

“We continue to leverage the storytelling of the Art Car Parade to highlight really special artists, educators and philanthropist in our city who help to keep creativity at the top of mind each year,” Pace said.

Speaking of keeping creativity alive, the Art Car Parade is really a year-round event considering that the organization works with HISD to encourage creativity and expression in education. The Orange Show integrated Art Car-related programming into schools' curriculum throughout the district and beyond. The result is the participation of more than 30 schools and youth groups from across the state who have designed and built art cars under the instruction of their teachers or mentors.
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The Art Car Parade has more than just cars.
Photo by Danitza Ladwig

Fret not for those who can’t make it to the Art Car Parade. The Orange Show keeps the party rolling with the Houston Art Bike Festival, featuring a contingent of Art Bikes – decked out, modified, and artistically-designed bicycles on May 13 at MacGregor Park and the Orange Show World Headquarters.

“In our efforts to continue to celebrate the artist in everyone, we realized that there is a barrier to entry. Artists need to get a car, and that's not the easiest thing for everyone to do. A bike is obviously a much easier object to attain,” he said.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the artists have pulled out all the stops in creating the art bikes. More than 100 student-led art bike projects of all shapes and sizes will be featured during the Houston Art Bike Festival.

The Orange Show has its fingers in many different pies – Smither Park, the Beer Can House, etc. – but the Art Car Parade is the most visible celebration of the artist and extraodinary imagination that resides in everyone.

“The Art Car Parade is the single, largest manifestation of that mission where, through the work of the parade, we inspire everyday citizens and artists alike to transform their vehicles into moving works of art and put them on display for the rest of the city to enjoy,” Pace said.

The full list of Art Car Parade festivities is as follows:

Thursday, April 6
First Thursday at Mid Main – 5 p.m. (3500-3700 Blocks of Main Street)
The official start of The Orange Show’s 36th Annual Houston Art Car Festival and Parade kicks off during First Thursday at Mid Main, which will benefit the Orange Show Center for Visionary in April with illuminated art cars and interactive art activities. A $5 donation allows access to the event with live music at various venues around Mid Main as well as a curated market on Winbern Street, beer sampling from Saint Arnold and more with 100% of donations going to the Orange Show.

Saturday, April 8
Easter Orange Art Car Hunt – 10 a.m. at Smither Park (2441 Munger Street)
This fun, free and creative Easter Egg hunt is for the whole family. Let the kids loose to find hundreds of candy-filled eggs, prizes, and, of course, oranges. Kids and families will also have an opportunity to see and explore a selection of Art Cars and meet their artists.

Thursday, April 13
The Main Street Drag – 9 a.m.
Designed to “bring the parade to the people,” the Main Street Drag is an opportunity for Art Cars and their artists to visit schools, hospitals, nursing homes, developmental facilities and other locations where residents may not be able to participate on their own at The Orange Show’s Houston Art Car Festival and Parade events. Over 100 cars will create a series of “mini parades” that will make their way to designated locations as the artists spend time showing off their rolling masterpieces, talk about their inspirations and how they built them while bringing smiles to everyone along the way.

Art Car Sneak Peek at Discovery Green – 6-10 p.m. (1500 McKinney Street)
A free and family-friendly evening under the stars in Downtown Houston featuring live music, art activities for the kids, food & drinks, and the opportunity to interact with 100+ art cars and on display and meet their artists throughout in the park and along Avenida Houston. The annual Art Car Sneak Peek is one of the first public opportunities to see new entries rolling in this year’s parade.
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It's art. It's a car. It's an art car.
Photo by Danitza Ladwig
Friday, April 14
The Legendary Art Car Ball – 6 pm – 11 p.m. at The Orange Show World Headquarters (2401 Munger Street)
Wild costumes, live music, interactive and performance art, food, drinks, and a huge selection of illuminated and fire-breathing art cars are hallmarks of the annual Legendary Art Car Ball. Featuring performances from New Orleans avant-garde “rap cabaret” sensation Boyfriend, Austin’s lauded electro-pop performer Caleb de Casper, Houston’s DJ Amarji, the high energy Free Rads 2nd Line, and more to be announced. Immersive and interactive art installations by INPUT/OUTPUT, Moon Papas, and Maria Chavez, fire performances from Ms. YET & The Renegade Carnies, and the visual spectacle of hundreds of glittering, twinkling, bouncing, and pulsating art cars scattered throughout the Orange Show World Headquarters 8-acre campus. Tickets start at $40.

Saturday, April 15
Lineup Party – 11 a.m. on Allen Parkway (at Heiner Street)
Join Splice Records and Saint Arnold Brewing Company for The Lineup Party – a chance to peruse all 250-plus art cars as they get ready for the parade. Enjoy live music on the Saint Arnold Brewing Company stage, beverage booths, food trucks, sponsor activations, games, prizes and more.

H-E-B Kids Creative Zone – 11 a.m. at Sam Houston Park (1000 Bagby Street)
Ideally situated on the frontlines of the parade starting cars, the Kids Zone features an array of creative activities for both kids and adults alike. Guests to the free event will enjoy interactive and creative activations and performances from community partners including Aeolian Manor Foundation, Alley Theatre’s El Zocalo, Art League Houston, The ARTZ, CAMH Teen Council, Children’s Museum of Houston, Houston Botanic Garden, Houston Mariachi Festival, Houston Public Library, MECA, Ripley Cheer, and more. Reserved grandstand seating adjacent to the H-E-B Kids Creative Zone is available for purchase at $40 per person.

The VIPit Experience – 12 p.m. at City Hall/Hermann Square (901 Bagby Street)
The ultimate viewing party and largest fundraiser for the Orange Show’s Houston Art Car Festival and Parade offers unobstructed front row views of the parade as it rolls through Downtown, all set within Hermann Square at City Hall. The event features complimentary bites from over a dozen local chefs and restaurants, cocktails, pre-parade entertainment, kids’ art activities, swag bags, live parade commentating from notable Houston personalities, and nearby reserved parking. Individual tickets start at $175, reserved tables start at $1,500, and reserved grandstand sections start at $2,000 are all available for purchase.

The 36th Annual Houston Art Car Parade presented by Team Gillman – 2 p.m. (Downtown Houston and Allen Parkway)
For the 36th year, 250 rolling masterpieces will take over the city’s streets as nearly 300,000 fans cheer them on from the sidelines. The parade officially begins at the intersection of Dallas and Bagby Streets (on Allen Parkway) heading into Downtown before circling City Hall and heading outbound onto Allen Parkway out of Downtown until dispersing at Waugh Drive. As always, the parade is free to attend. After the checkered flag is waved at 2 p.m., the parade will last approximately two hours with Allen Parkway and downtown streets opening back up at 5 p.m.

Sunday, April 16
Art Car Awards Ceremony – 11 a.m. at The Orange Show World HQ (2334 Gulf Terminal Drive)
More than $16,000 will be distributed to Art Car artists and groups in various categories through a judging process that rates entries based on their creativity, artistic techniques, and inspiration. The public is invited to come celebrate the winners and get a final chance to see this year’s Art Car entries and meet their artists.

The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art will host the Art Car Parade and its several events April 6 – 16. The main event, the Art Car Parade will take place 2 – 4 p.m., Saturday April 15 in Downtown and along Allen Parkway. For information or to purchase tickets, visit Some events are ticketed; the Art Car Parade is free to attend.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd