Apr 12, 2024 - News

Guide to the 37th annual Art Car Parade

Photo of a car painted in bright color and double-headed dragon atop the vehicle.

Be prepared for wild creations this weekend. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Gear up for a day of eccentricity and zaniness: the 37th annual Art Car Parade is Saturday.

Why it matters: The parade is the largest annual free public art event in the city, attracting more than 200,000 spectators every year.

Driving the news: About 280 decked-out vehicles will ride through downtown and along Allen Parkway.

Flashback: One of the first official art cars in Houston was created by local artist Jackie Harris, who transformed a 1967 Ford station wagon donated to the Orange Show Foundation and decorated it with paint and plastic fruit in 1984.

  • The parade grew from a handful of cars in 1986 and became an integral part of the city's culture.

Between the lines: The iconic Art Car Museum, a separate entity from parade organizer Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, is closing at the end of this month.

  • A few cars from the museum's collection will ride through the parade, including three cars designed by renowned sculptor David Best, the Orange Show's 2024 artist in residence.
  • Of note: The museum, which is closing after both the museum's founders passed away in 2021 and 2023, said that there are discussions in progress with local arts organizations to "continue and evolve the Art Car Museum's presence, legacy and mission in the future."

Zoom in: There will be 40 student-built art cars decorated largely by Houston ISD students, according to Jonathan Beitler, director of communications and special events at the Orange Show.

  • Sponsor Team Gillman donates 10 cars a year to area schools for the purpose of building an art car. Since January, students from schools like Westbury High School and Ortiz Middle School have been revamping the cars for the big event.
  • "This really creates this opportunity for students to experience a unique type of art. Something that they would never get to experience anywhere else," Beitler says.

The activities begin at 11am, and the parade rolls from 2pm-4pm. Here is a map of the route.

  • The lineup party, where spectators can take a closer look at the cars while enjoying live music, will begin at 11am at Allen Parkway from Bagby Street to Taft Street.
  • The grand marshal this year is Brock Wagner, founder of Saint Arnold Brewing Co.

Plus: The Legendary Art Car Ball will be held from 6pm-11pm Friday. Available tickets are $50-$200.

  • An award ceremony with over $15,000 in prize money will be Sunday at 11am at the Orange Show Headquarters. See last year's winners here.

The bottom line: Embrace the weirdness. When else do you see back-to-back painted vehicles with unique and quirky contraptions, foam creations and animal figurines glued on them parading through downtown?

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