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Artists Design First Houston Folk Art Park

Houston’s own Orange Show Center for Visionary Arts is getting a new neighbor. Smither Park is Houston's first folk art park, and it is something the whole community can contribute to.


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Smither Park is the brain-child of Huntsville artist Dan Phillips, and Stephanie Smither. The park is named in honor of Smither’s late husband and former Orange Show board member, John Smither. Stephanie Smither describes one of the artist’s 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. However possibly 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 one and two of the wall, and we’re getting TSU alum 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 Scouts’ 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 to 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 of the park are left up to the artists who volunteer. Requirements to contribute are not rigorous. Those who wish to get involved contact the Orange Show Foundation and meet with Philips 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 located right next to the Orange Show in the twenty-four hundred block of Munger and is an ongoing project.

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