In 1980, Houston arts patron and business leader Marilyn Oshman formed a non-profit foundation to preserve the then fragile and deteriorating Orange Show Monument. She reached out to 21 well-known members of the comunity representing a diverse cross-section of Houston - Dominique de Menil, Nina Cullen, members of ZZ Top, and others - to assist in the purchase and restoration of the site. In 1982, the Orange Show Monument opened back up to the public and the newly hired staff began to integrate the Oange Show Center for Visionary Art into Houston's cultural life through a wide variety of programs.
Now in its 31st year, the Orange Show Center or Visionary Art focuses on the ability to make basic elements of art angible and accessible to the public. Through the acquisition in 2001 of the Beer Can House, another Houston landmark, as well as being the producer for the past 25 years of one of Houston's most beloved annual events, The Houston Art Car Parade, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art has become Houston's hub of folk art activity. In addition, the organization provides opportunities for at-risk youth to engage in enriching art projects such as mural painting and Art Car building; and also holds a series of cultural expeditions called Eyeopener Tours that explore amazing art environments throughout the city and beyond.
In addition to the Orange Show Monument, the Beer Can House and the Houston Art Car Parade, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is currently in the construction phase of Smither Park, destined to be Houston's first folk-art inspired green space, located on the same block as the Orange Show Monument. Smither Park will exemplify the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art's mission by utilizing local artists and individuals in the community to create a lasting, sustainable creative space that will allow people from across Houston and beyond to be inspired and gain a greater understanding of visionary art.
The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is a publicly funded non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Funding is provided in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Brown Foundation, Houston Endowment, Wortham Foundation, Silver Eagle Distributors, United Airlines and Marilyn Oshman, as well as private contributions, in-kind support, and volunteer assistance. The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is a member of Fresh Arts.
Orange Show Center for Visionary Art Chronology
- 1956 A permit to build a beauty parlor is issued to Houston postman Jeff McKissack.
- 1960 McKissack self-publishes How You Can Live 100 Years and Still be Spry.
- 1978 The "beauty parlor" now called The Orange Show is featured in Texas Monthly.
- 1979 May 9, McKissack opens The Orange Show to the public
- 1980 Jeff McKissack dies after a stroke two days before his 78th birthday.
- 1980 The Orange Show Foundation is formed to preserve the site.
- 1982 Programming begins at the restored and reopened Orange Show site.
- 1983 American Institute of Architects Environmental Improvement Award.
- 1984 The Fruitmobile art car is created for The Orange Show Foundation.
- 1986 Eyeopener Committee forms, tours of visionary art sites begin.
- 1987 Orange Show presents 10-week art program at J. P. Henderson Elementary
- 1988 1st Annual Art Car Parade, downtown Houston
- 1989 Orange Show offices move to 2402 Munger St.
- 1996 Community mural program begin
- 1997 Art Car Parade is featured on the cover of the Sunday New York Times
- 1998 Annual regional television broadcasts of the Art Car Parade begins
- 1998 Orange Show hosts 11th annual Folk Art Society of America Annual Conference
- 2001 Texas Monthly names Eyeopener Tours one of "50 Best Things to do in Texas"
- 2001 The Orange Show Foundation acquires the Beer Can House for preservation
- 2003 The Art Car Parade is presented as an independent event, free for all
- 2003 The Orange Show Foundation becomes Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
- 2006 Orange Show Center for Visionary Art purchases warehouse space on Munger St.
- 2007 Orange Show Monument added to National Register of Historic Places
- 2008 The Beer Can House officially opens to the public
- 2010 Orange Show Center for Visionary Art reinstates the Legendary Art Car Ball
- 2011 Orange Show Center for Visionary Art celebrates its 30th anniversary
- 2011 Smither Park breaks ground on Munger St.
- 2011 Orange Show celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Houston Art Car Parade
- 2012 Orange Show acquires the "Smokesax"
- 2013 Smither Park enters construction Phase II on Munger St.