Why the Art Car Parade is Emblematic of Houston Art

The annual parade goes underway this Saturday.


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In his backyard in the Heights, Dennis McNett was putting the final touches on his group’s entry for this year’s Art Car Parade, the “Tumbleweed Time Machine.” He calls it a cross between the Wild West and The Road Warrior.

The vehicle started out as an old ambulance.

“And what we did is we got old wood, like, old pallets, old rustic-looking wood to really give it the look of a covered wagon,” McNett said. “So we connected all those on the outside and tried to get, like, a continuous line down the side. We made wagon wheels that cover the actual tires of the vehicle. There’s a print-covered horse on the front, almost like a hood ornament.”

It’s McNett’s third year in the parade but this time he has help from two skateboarder friends, Steve Olson from Los Angeles and Dylan Goldberger from New York.

The skateboarding part comes in with a mobile half-pipe that will be pulled on a trailer. Goldberger will skate on it during the parade. Olson, who’s also an artist, helped McNett come up with the idea.

“We just bounced ideas back and forth until we came up with this whole covered wagon kind of thing and figured since we’re in Texas,” McNett said, “and we didn’t want it to just be a covered wagon and so we added the time machine part, so it’s kind of a cross between… like, a futuristic covered wagon.”

The Tumbleweed Time Machine will be one of more than 250 converted vehicles in the parade on Saturday.

Jonathan Beitler is with the Orange Show, which has produced the Art Car Parade since its launch in 1988. He says Houston is the first city to recognize vehicle art in a public way. And while some other cities now also have art car parades, the one here in Houston is still the largest in the nation.

“People have used cars as their form of personal expression,” Beitler said, “whereas some other cities, you know, you’ll see a lot of street art on subways or on buses. Our lack of public transit has really given rise to the fact that people can use their cars, drive around the city all day and have millions of people see their art.”

Steve Olson, the skateboarder/artist from L.A., said he has never been part of anything like the Art Car Parade and he is excited about the opportunity.

“I was just like, wow, we get to make an art car, that’s pretty amazing in itself,” Olson said. “Honored to, like, be able to do this and work with Dennis, who’s a really good friend of mine and then meet Dylan and make this art car for the parade, which seems pretty outrageous in itself and kind of shows you that Houston is a little more forward-thinking per se as like the major markets.”  

The 27th annual Houston Art Car Parade starts rolling down Allen Parkway on Saturday, May 10, at 2 p.m.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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