Off the beaten track in Houston
At first glance visitors to Houston will see a sophisticated city, yet it is a friendly and hospitable city with an abundance of lush, green space. Houston is also a diverse city, with eccentric neighborhoods like Montrose, filled with artists, galleries, and vintage clothing stores. Some of Houston’s best loved gems remain under the radar for even Houston’s most loyal visitors. People willing to explore will find folk art museums, art that is presented through moving vehicles and beer cans. Houston is a city that celebrates the art in all people, and that philosophy is evident in each funky location on the list below…
Beer Can House
The story goes that John Milkovisch hated to throw anything away, and after years of drinking, both his attic and garage were bursting with empty beer cans. In 1968, he got the bright idea that the cans would make good house siding, and a folk art legend was born. Milkovisch didn’t stop with the house. He blanketed the lawn with concrete blocks inlaid with bits of colorful glass. He drilled holes in the redwood fence, filling the spaces with marbles. With the cans’ pull-tabs, he created clinking curtains that he hung from the front porch and eaves. More beer cans, wire and found objects became mobiles and lawn art. Altogether, Milkovisch spent 18 years decorating.
These days, the house is a folk art gallery/workshop owned by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art—they estimate it’s made up of more than 50,000 beer cans.The story of the house is told through vintage photographs and archives donated by the Milkovisch Family. Visitors will see how the 1940s-era bungalow grew over the years to become the monument it is today. They will also come away with a better understanding of folk art and the importance of preserving environments created by self-taught artists such as Mr. Milkovisch. The restoration also includes the addition of a visitor’s center and gift shop located on the site of John’s old workshop.
Art Car Museum
The Art Car Museum is a private institution dedicated to contemporary art and an exhibition forum for local, national and international artists. Its emphasis is on art cars, other fine arts and artists that are rarely, if ever, acknowledged by other cultural institutions. Its conceptual origins are the 1984 Collision Show at the Lawndale Art Center, which saw the unveiling of Larry Fuente’s Mad Cad, which has since been featured in museums and cultural institutions across the country. As a result of the popularity of this show, art car workshops were founded in Houston, which eventually precipitated the Art Car Parade, held each year in May, and the Art Car movement as we know it today.
National Museum of Funeral History
Only in Houston can you find a coffin shaped like a Mercedes Benz and a 4,500 lb. hearse that is eight feet high and 19 feet long. The National Museum of Funeral History was founded in 1992 to educate the public and preserve the rich heritage of the funeral industry. Visitors to the museum can explore a 1900s casket factory through original design plans and photographs, or they can learn more about embalming during battle in the Civil War Embalming exhibit. As the museum states in its tagline, “Every day above ground is a good one.”
Orange Show Monument
The Orange Show is Houston postman Jeff McKissack’s creation in honor of his favorite fruit. It illustrates his belief that longevity comes from hard work and good nutrition. The result is an architectural maze of walkways, balconies, arenas and exhibits decorated with mosaics and brightly painted iron figures.
For more Houston information, visit www.visithoustontexas.com