Fueled by

combustible creativity

At America’s biggest art car parade, sculptures-on-wheels are driven by a full tank of artistry.

At America’s biggest art car parade, sculptures-on-wheels are driven by a full tank of artistry.

Hundreds of artists from around the country — all of them fueled by creative combustibility — turn gas-powered cars into rolling sculptures for the annual Houston Art Car Parade. More than 300,000 people come watch the parade slowly roll through the streets of the city, throwing parties along the way. It’s actually a four-day event, bookended by a gala benefit and an awards ceremony. But the main event is where it’s at. The imaginative power put on display is pure whimsy-on-wheels.

Lynette Wallace is the executive director of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, the organization that produces the festival. She says last year’s show saw 129 brand-new never-before-seen art cars, 34 entries created by area schools and more than 40 entries from artists living at least 100 miles outside of Houston.

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FUELED BY: What’s fueled the Houston Art Car Parade to continue to grow for more than three decades and counting?

LYNETTE WALLACE: Creativity! The Houston Art Car Parade wouldn't exist without the incredible artistic talent, creativity, and passion for the unusual that each of the over 250 art car artists and artist teams produce each and every year. The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, the producer of the Houston Art Car Parade, funds this endeavor through grants, sponsors, donations and a partnership with the city of Houston as a way to showcase this unique and special form of art on a large scale — taking art out of the museums or galleries and onto the streets.

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FB: From your conversations with the creative community, what do you think fuels these artists to take on such monumental projects?

LW: Much of the time, the mobile masterpieces created for the Houston Art Car Parade are built by individuals without any kind of artistic background. School and youth groups, families and friends, colleagues, and other various teams will get together with a junky old car, a little bit of money and an idea, and together they’ll produce a completely new and out-of-this-world rolling sculpture. What ties it all together is the opportunity to be a part of this beloved, highly visible and wildly eccentric annual event.

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FB: Tell us about a few of your favorite art cars over the years.

LW: I could never say that any art car is my favorite — each entry over the years has brought something special to the parade and helped to make the event what it is today. We are very lucky to have showcased some of the most extreme modified vehicles by some of the world's best contemporary artists and young local talents. That said, a nearly 100-foot long rolling metal dragon complete with a full bar inside has been a huge crowd-pleaser over the years.

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FB: The educational aspect of the parade is inspiring. It’s like one big S.T.E.A.M. experiment for kids and adults. Tell us about the ways these schools get involved.

LW: The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is extremely passionate about providing an educational platform through the Houston Art Car Parade and helping make sure that schools have the resources necessary to produce entries each year. The majority of these art cars created within schools are after-school programs that receive little or no funding, with the art teachers often paying for tools and supplies — and sometimes even the cars — out of their own pocket. We make efforts to connect donors, corporations and passionate art car fans with these schools to help fund their creations. It's incredible to hear stories from the art teachers about the positive effects that building an art car has on their students. Just imagine putting literal sweat and tears into a project and then parading it in front of hundreds of thousands of screaming fans!

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FB: What fuels you?

LW: Everything that I just mentioned! Art cars are a staple in the Houston community, representing the creativity, ingenuity and imagination of Houstonians young and old. The celebration of the Houston Art Car Parade has become a cultural phenomenon throughout the city. Everyone who works on producing the parade throughout the year continues to inspire me.

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