Now, who do you suppose drank all that beer? (Photo: Alamy)
Creative visionary John Milkovisch didn’t consider himself as an artist, and that’s a good metaphor for a certain side of Houston — creativity big as Texas but no pretensions to high culture. Milkovisch designed things with beer cans you have to see to believe, and his isn’t the only fertile, homegrown imagination you’ll find in this Texas city. During a Houston vacation, hit up these quirky examples of artistic spirit that just won’t be tamed.
You Are What You Drink
A downloadable guide to Milkovisch’s Beer Can House at 222 Malone Street begins with a quote from the non-artist himself: “Some people say this is sculpture, but I didn’t go to no expensive school to get these crazy notions.” Instead he kept his upholsterer’s hands busy by decorating the yard with bits of stone and metal. Slowly he encased the house in a cover of flattened beer can siding.
Now visitors are treated to the bubbly music of wind chimes strung from countless beer lids and pop-tabs.
Tip: Look for “Culprit” – this wheelbarrow was the childhood genesis of John’s work with stone.
Not everybody’s big on beer though, and Houston has ample room for a person to choose his own beverage. A homage to one man’s favorite fruit, The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art at 2402 Munger Street is a folk art environment of recognized significance.
Postal worker Jefferson Davis McKissack tutors the uninitiated with his 3,000-square-foot, mortar-and-found-objects creation: Work hard – and eat oranges – and life will be long and happy. Visit to ponder his motives and to consider your own.
Tip: Check for local-band gigs at this far-out venue.
Art Cars on Parade
McKissack’s tribute to citrus inspired an arts organization, and they channeled his quirky spirit in 1988 with the inaugural Art Car Parade. Today, the parade is the highlight of Art Car Weekend. It attracts over 200 wheeled entries (even lawnmowers get their due) and thousands of spectators.
If you can’t make the actual parade, never fear. The scrap-metal-and-chrome Art Car Museum (aka Garage Mahal) at 140 Heights Boulevard gives you a tour of some of the event’s finest creations.
Tip: Look for the giant, first-prize-winning red stiletto on wheels.
Go Big or Go Home
Speaking of giants, U.S. presidents also make popular subjects for quirky, oversized sculpture (à la Mt. Rushmore), and you’ll find them posing for history in a field next to the parking lot of David Adickes’ studio. The giant Sam Houston statue on I-45 near Huntsville, Texas, is his handiwork.
But before you deem his sculpture as very run-of-the-mill, visit the Lyric Center in downtown’s theater district to see his stunning 36-foot-tall cellist.
Tip: Hop on the bandwagon and snap a selfie here – the statue was recently mentioned as one of the best places in the city for prom pictures.
It just goes to show that art in Houston is in the eye of the creator.