"Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness." ~Anni Albers
I took a 13-hour road trip to Texas. It would be my third trip to Houston, and my time was limited. Houston is a city that embraces its local artists and celebrates their creativity on almost every corner. I was enthusiastic to check out some of its public art, a museum, and a couple of creative beer gardens. Join me in exploring the artsy side of Houston with only 48 hours to spare.
My first stop was 12-acres of lush green space located across the street from my hotel in downtown Houston. Discovery Green is home to a recreational lake, an eco-friendly restaurant, fountains, two outdoor concert venues, and the city’s coolest art installations. At the first public art exhibit, I stood dwarfed between two giant rectangular Rubik Cubes in shades of blue, green, red, and orange called Synchronicity of Color. A few steps away was a bronze cast statue known as the House (Heart). On the Avenida de América side of the park was a large red, white and blue multi-figured sculpture of a dog, church, hedge, chimney, phantom, and tree called the Monument Au Fantome which means Monument to the Phantom, or Imaginary City. A fun interactive exhibit is the Listening Vessels. The vessels are two stone sculptures designed so a person sitting within the concave of one can speak and be heard by someone sitting within the other. Discovery Green rekindled my childlike enthusiasm for art. It was pure joy.
My next stop was the Art Car Museum, a thematic display of repurposed cars into unique statement pieces of Pop Art. Each car is decorated inside and out with tile pieces, marble, seashells and paraphernalia from pop culture like hula dolls, tiny McDonald’s kid’s meal toys, and superhero figures. There are also automobile related photography, videography, and sculpture exhibits change out every few months. The Art Car Museum building itself is a chrome castle of art. If you happen to be in Houston during the month of April, don’t miss the annual Art Car Parade Weekend. This event attracts over 250 vehicle visionaries and their artistic creations. Even if you aren’t a car fanatic, this museum should be on your list of art inspired things to do. Did I mention it is free to enter?
The Art Car Museum is currently open by appointment only.
A few miles from the Art Car Museum is a house estimated by Ripley’s Believe It or Not to being covered with over 50,000 cans. The Beer Can House is the creation of beer enthusiast and urban folk art legend John Milkovisch. As soon as you drive up, you know this is something special, for you are greeted by a Milkovisch soaring metal creation with the word Amen at the top and a sign with Live By Golden Rule hanging under it. The gate and side paneling of the dwelling are covered in flattened beer cans. The porch ceiling and walls are wallpapered with beer labels. Multiple curtains of can lids hanging from rafters produce a musical symphony when the wind blows. Beer bottles have been inserted into the fence creating a glass wall. There are stone, metal, and glass statues throughout the front and back yards. The entire property is an environmentalist’s dream of recycled and refurbished products creating Houston’s most loved roadside attraction.
It is open but you will need to wear a mask and practice social distancing at all times.
Next up was a walk around downtown Houston to see a few public art installations known as the Art Blocks. A stroll down Main Street will take you to Trumpet Flower, a three-story multi-color wooden sculpture and the large gouache and ink mural of the Twins on Main Street Marquee. Walk down Clay Street to the 230 foot wide and 130 feet tall, Sky Dance. Jete with Sky Dance’s ballerinas on this massive mural inspired by dancers from Houston Ballet. Its art inspiring art, and I loved it. The art is periodically changed out on the Art Blocks in Houston, so who knows what you will find on your own art walk.
My last stop for this first day seduced me away from the visual arts into a more auditory and flavorful art experience. Axelrad, an immense outdoor beer garden with some interesting and artsy seating, 30 taps of mostly local craft beer, rotating food trucks, and musicians. As you enter the space, your eyes are irresistibly drawn to a tree of tubular lights in the center of the garden and the grove of hammocks behind it. Axelrad’s sky high signage and front Airstream bar adds to the eclectic vibe. The most memorable piece of visual art on-site are the tap handles, a masterpiece displayed along a wall inside the indoor bar, part of a 100-year-old building. Taps were hand carved by South American artist Maria Rangel, to resemble Guatemalan Worry Dolls.
I am a dark beer lover, so on my visit to Axelrad I had Blanco's Real Ale Brewing's Nitro Irish Stout, a bold and flavorful pour. My favorite of the night was a creamy pecan porter from Austin's 512 that allowed the nutty and chocolate flavors to shine through. The food truck there that Thursday night was Space Lobos and the pop-up chef was Houston’s very own Chef Evelyn Garcia, season 18 champion of Food Network's Chopped. Chef served an Asian-influenced Pupusa, a Salvadoran sandwich that was bursting with flavor. I had never eaten one before and all I want to know is, when can I get another one?
Axelrad is currently closed. But is holding a drive-in concert experience on May 23. Social distance and listen to live music from your car in their parking lot.
Started the next day off in Houston’s Museum District at one or more of its 19 museums. Standouts in the arts are the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and Diverse Works.
Please check the museum you wish to visit, as each has different reopening policies.
I spent the afternoon at one of the most remarkable Hindu temples, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston. BAPS Houston is a true architectural work of art as it consists of 33,000 pieces of intricately hand carved Italian marble and Turkish limestone. The grounds, fountain, and reflective ponds are impressive. The art inside the temple is exquisite. There was a feeling of tranquility here. You don’t have to be Hindu to visit, so everyone is welcome.
My final stop was Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Texas’ oldest craft brewery. Creating the perfect beer is a delicate balance of malts, yeast, hops, robust flavors and is art in itself. When you step inside it’s newly opened restaurant the walls are covered in vivid art murals. The murals depict scenes resembling ones you would find in European churches. The scenes are displayed within arched dining nooks throughout the restaurant. Lavish chandeliers hang from the wooden beams and stain glass windows adorn the walls. Outside, there is a fountain crafted from an inverted brew kettle, bocce ball courts, corn hole and several art cars are on display. Looming above it all, on the brewery side of the property, are three large scale silos beautifuly spray painted with Saint Arnold's logos. It was the best place to end our 48 hours before heading on to our next stop of that Texas road trip, Dallas.
Curbside and beer pick up now available.
Even though I only had 48 hours to get artsy in Houston I had a remarkable time discovering the creative visionaries that make Houston truly inspiring.