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How Did The Orange Show Art Car Parade
Get Started in Houston?

By Beth Secor from ""Start-Up Advice: The How To's of Art Cars"" published by the Orange Show Foundation

"Roadside Attractions: The Artists Parade," the largest art car parade in the world, takes place in Houston, Texas, every year in mid-April. This parade had its genesis in the Fruitmobile, an art car made for The Orange Show Foundation in 1984. Houston artists were energized by the exhibition of two art cars in "Collision" at Lawndale Art Annex, and art cars had begun to crop up on the city streets. In that same year, a 1967 Ford station wagon was donated for auction at the Foundation's annual Halloween Gala benefit.

Houston artist Jackie Harris asked to transform the car into a work of art.


She painted giant fruits, flowers, and fish all over the car's tired surface. She strategically affixed and painted plastic fruit, dinner plates, and glasses to the car, creating a fruit smorgasbord in relief. Hence was born the Fruitmobile, a mobile still life.

The Fruitmobile, once auctioned, was donated back to the Foundation. The Orange Show itself, a folk art environment built by the late postman Jeff McKissack as a monument to the life­giving properties of the orange, now had a roving ambassador to spread the Foundation's message: Art is and should be an integral part of every day life.

The Fruitmobile generated so much enthusiasm around Houston for decorated automobiles that, in 1986, The Orange Show Foundation organized a "Road Show" to spotlight the Fruitmobile and other decorated automobiles. On June 29, 1986, eleven other art cars were exhibited along side the Fruitmobile at The Orange Show, with Lowrider demonstrations and children's art bike workshops. More than 1,400 Houstonians came along with WFAA­TV and National Public Radio.

In 1987, The Houston International Festival, the City's official celebration of the arts, asked The Orange Show Foundation to create an event based on a popular art parade that had opened the previous year's festival and featured the Fruitmobile. The Orange Show Foundation agreed and suggested that it be a parade of art cars. "Roadside Attractions: The Artists Parade" was born in 1988. Now there are art car parades and festivals all over the country in such places as St. Louis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Baltimore, and New Orleans.

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Last update April 1, 2004