In the middle of a sea of shiny white, silver, and black cars on our roads sometimes you’ll see glimpses of the other side… flashes of bright color, bits of pride, flower children, vintage cars, and even downright strange vehicles. These cars garner much deserved appreciation wherever they go, and I imagine that, like me, they give you that happy feeling too… hallelujah! We are not all identical stormtroopers in faceless armor charging down the highway! There are people who aren’t afraid to let their wild flags fly.

“…for Art Cars and the people who love and care for them, the Houston Art Car Parade is the red carpet event of the year.”

Taking that instinct for creativity and love of cars to its pinnacle is the glorious Art Car. And for Art Cars and the people who love and care for them, the Houston Art Car Parade is the red carpet event of the year.

Every April (save the last two) over 300 Art Cars participate in the Houston Art Car Parade. They come from all over, although the majority call Houston home. The parade typically draws a crowd of over 300,000 spectators to the Houston streets. Last year the beloved parade was cancelled, but this year the format was tweaked to let the Art Cars be seen without the congestion of parade crowds on the streets. The event included only 80 cars by invitation and was titled an Art Car “Experience”.

The outdoor exhibition was held near the Orange Show, a folk art theme park dedicated to oranges, which is not unlike the Art Cars in its strangeness and DIY artistic spirit. The event, while not a parade, had the advantage of being able to admire the cars up close and from different angles.

And what a party! We arrived on Friday night and the atmosphere was festive, the crowd bedecked in wonderfully outrageous costumes. The band was playing, the lightshow was thrilling the eyes, and the drinks flowing! But above all the Art Cars were breathtaking. Most were cleverly lit up and had background information you could reference on your phone with a QR code.

Below are quite a few of the art cars we saw, with links to their info pages if you’d like to know more. We had such a good time on Friday that we went back to take better pictures on Saturday afternoon!

The Art Cars ran the gamut in type — there were cars of all kinds, lowriders, trucks, an ambulance, huge sculptural figures on motorized wheels, a motorcycle, golf carts and other types of carts and much more. In technique, most were painted but others sculpted, welded, glued, and collaged with found objects. Many included lights and sound, such as the Carlagio Fountain truck and the Hermesillac.

There were a scattering of art history references, particularly Pop Art, such as the Pop Art Car covered in cut out soda cans (by Sharon Neyland & Cherie Smith), or the homage to the dots of Japanese Pop Artist Yayoi Kusama by our friends Mary Anne & Charles Fried. There was a van called Vincent’s Dream painted in the style of Vincent Van Gogh. And in a trailer reminiscent of Mardi Gras Floats, we saw Brunehilde tilting her enormous head back to sing a Wagnerian Opera, constructed by the Houston Grand Opera.

One of the things that touched my heart most was the large number of schools represented. Arts cars by schools included: Bouma the Driving Owl, Sunny with a Chance of Sprinkles, the Pride and Joy tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Glam-bulance, the Mane-ly Lion Car, and Wakanda Forever. What a great source of pride and accomplishment for young artists!

I hope to make a tradition of seeing these wonderful, strange, and exotic pieces of moving art every year in Houston. Bravo, artists!

In homage to the brave & creative souls who make Art Cars, we launched a new collection for those who might need a bit of help to get some art on your car… The Modern Art Kit. Check it out. Car Floats allow you to put some art & color on and off your ride easily… to arrange, layer, cut and collage without fear of damage. With Car Floats, you can dip your toes in parading glory, without permanently altering your daily driver.

Please enjoy the gallery of Art Cars below!

— Elena Walker