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Houston Folk Art Park Attracts Volunteer Artists

Houston's Orange Show Center for Visionary Arts – organizer of the annual Art Car Parade — has added a new attraction. It's Houston's first folk art park, and it's something the whole community can contribute to.


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Smither Park is the brainchild of Stephanie Smither and Huntsville artist Dan Phillips. The park is named in honor of Smither’s late husband and former Orange Show board member John H. Smither. Stephanie Smither describes one of the artists’ portions of the 400-foot memory wall.

“This is a tree of life using all kinds of ceramics. She has bugs on the tree that use metal spatulas for the wings. There’s a strainer for the head. She has used shells in different designs along with spoons to make flowers on the wall.”

By the time the park is finished, it will include many structures and features including a meditation garden, a grotto and a built-in scavenger hunt complete with clues hidden in the art throughout the park. But maybe the most interesting aspect of the park is the community it brings together.

The park has attracted a wide range of volunteers, such as a group of students from Texas Southern University and their professor, Dr. Alvia Wardlaw.

“The students are preparing section 1 and 2 of the wall and we’re getting TSU alumn involved as well to come and spend some time, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday.”

Katelyn Wallace, a Memorial High School student, has brought her friends to the park as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

“These are all people who are part of my team, and they’ve come to help.  I mean a lot of them have donated stuff and they‘re all friends from high school so they all just come and help. They like to work on the wall, they have a lot of fun.”

Although the grand scheme of the park is the vision of Dan Phillips, the more specific portions are left up to the artists who volunteer. The requirements to contribute are not rigorous. Those who wish to get involved, contact the Orange Show Foundation and meet with Phillips for a brainstorming session, in which they must come up with an idea and a direction.

“There are some boundaries, but not many. You don’t want to paralyze artists.”

The park is an ongoing project. It is located right next to the Orange Show in the 2400 block of Munger.