Folk and Public Art Tours
Our Houston Folk and Public Art Tours introduce our clients to public art that is frequently created by local amateur people. Encarta defines folk art as "paintings and decorative objects made in a naive style." I would add to this definition that folk art is done by common folk, available in generally free settings for the common folk, and or frequently reflects the lives, and dreams of common folk. It often expresses optimism for a better tomorrow or a joy of life. It may be a structure, architecture, or a work of art.
Public art is often a reflection of a city or government’s value to sponsor and support that which may be viewed as intrinsic to creating a better quality of life through aesthetics.
All four of our Houston Folk Art tours are 5 hours in duration. They normally begin at 9:30 and end at 2:30 PM. However, we can be flexible and schedule earlier or later. We try to avoid the morning and rush hour traffic.
All of the works are outside with the three exceptions of some murals in a library on Tour A, and Project Row Houses and a mausoleum on Tour B. Otherwise, we only go into buildings for lunch and bathrooms.
Tours A and B are totally within the I-610 Loop.
Tour C goes beyond I-610.
Tour D goes beyond I-610 and Beltway 8.
- Tour A — Downtown and the 5th Ward
- Tour B — Rice Military District, West End, 6th Ward, Eado, 2nd Ward, the East End, and Southeast Houston
- Tour C — Central and South Houston
- Tour D — Southwest and West Houston
Houston Folk and Public Art Tour A — Downtown and the 5th Ward
This tour includes:
- Claus Oldenburg’s Geometric Mouse, Scale X (1968).
- New Deal murals (1934 and 1935) are inside the Julia B. Ideson (1880 – 1945) Library (1924) to be viewed. Closed on Sunday and Friday.
- Allen’s Landing (1836). A reconstructed dock has been built that identifies the products that Houston traded in the 1800s.
- Discovery Green Park’s (2008) Jean Dubuffet’s Monument au Fantome from 1971, Margo Sawyer‘s Synchronicity of Color, and Doug Hollis’s Listening Vessels and Mist Tree and more.
- Market Square Park’s (1991 and 2007) 9/11 Memorial, gargoyle heads, and James Surls’s Points of View statue from 1991.
- Root Memorial Square Park (1923 and 2005) with its sunken basketball court and Carter Ernst and Paul Kittelson’s 5 Heritage Lanterns (2005).
- Sam Houston Park’s (1899) statue of John Connally (1917 – 1993), the World War (Before we had to number them) Memorial, the Spirit of the Confederacy memorial to Confederate soldiers from 1908, the Pillot Dogs, and U. S. S. Houston Monument from 1998 for the ship that was sunk on March 1, 1942.
- Sesquicentennial Park (1986) with Chas Fagan’s statues of George Bush #41st US president (2004) and James Baker, III, the former secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, and chief of staff (2010).
- Sisters of Charity Park (2001) with its tropical gardens and waterfall. This is sometimes locked.
- Tranquility Park’s (1979) The Sweeney Clock from 1908, 5 steel cylinders that represent Saturn V rockets, uneven terrain that is to represent craters on the moon, and an image of a man on the moon in metal. It also has a Challenger Memorial (1987), Columbia Memorial (2003), Lunar Footprint depiction (1979), and One Step for Mankind plaque (1980).
- Minute Maid Park’s (2000) statues of Hall of Fame Astros baseball players Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, large baseballs, and a blacksmith on the site of the old 1800’s police livery stable.
- The Toyota Center’s (2003) statue of Hakeem Olajuwon’s jersey.
- The old Southern Pacific Steam Engine #982 by Minute Maid Park.
- The Hobby Center’s (2002) In Minds (2002) by Anthony (Tony) Cragg.
- Jones Hall’s (1966) Ballerina.
- The Wortham Theater Center’s (1987) Melvin Chow’s 70-foot tall “Seven Wonders” (1998).
- Dean Ruck’s Big Bubble AKA The Buffalo Bayou Bubble (1998).
- The Aquarium waterfall.
- The Wortham Theater Center (1987) waterfall.
- The Hard Rock Café’s 3-story, 35-foot tall, rotating guitar.
- David Adickes’s “Virtuoso” (1982) at the Lyric Center.
- Joan Miro’s “Personage and Birds” (1970).
- The Hanging Oak Tree. It is thought to be over 400 years old and was the site of where at least 11 criminals met the end of their lives at the end of a rope.
- The 1904 City Hall Clock from the former clock tower.
- Mario E. Figueroa, Jr. AKA Gonzo247’s Houston is Inspired mural from 2013.
- The Welcome to Downtown Houston sign that faces outgoing traffic from 2011.
- Time-permitting, we will go through a somewhat Bohemian arts area that sometimes has unique artwork.
- David Adickes’s (1927 – Present) studio and warehouse. See the 2-story tall busts of over 40 presidents, a 5-story tall statue of Charlie Chaplin, and 4-story tall statues of The Beatles.
- Dan Havel and Dean Ruck’s (The Art Guys) The Fifth Ward Jam from 2011.
- The 1932 McKee Street Bridge that looks like a teal wave that connects the 2nd Ward to the 5th Ward.
- Moody Park’s (1925) Luis A. Jimenez’s (1940 – 2006) Vaquero statue from 1978.
You will have your choice of any number of interesting and eclectic restaurants in downtown. Everyone pays for his/her own meal.
Houston Folk and Public Art Tour B —Rice Military District, West End, Sixth Ward, Eado, 2nd Ward, the East End, and Southeast Houston
This tour includes:
Rice Military District
- The Beer Can House, formerly of John Milkovisch, created from 1968 to 1987.
- The Gargoyle House, home to Frank Zeni.
- The Lawn Mower House formerly of Rochelle Cooper.
- The Spear House. It has eight 3-story tall wooden spears that are along the frame of this narrow aluminum-looking house.
- Aluminum homes.
West End (from the late 1800s)
- Mark Bradford's art car studio
- Art cows from the Cow Parade Houston (2001).
- Multicultural Education Through the Arts (MECA)‘s soda can statue of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and what appears to be Elvis, along with what looks like a big piñata. The MECA building is from 1912.
- St. Joseph’s Church’s (1901) cactus water fountain and “Our United Community” mural (1985).
- Mount Rush Hour (2013) – 18 foot tall busts of George Washington (1732 – 1799), Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865), Sam Houston (1793 – 1863), and Stephen F. Austin (1793 – 1836).
Eado, 2nd Ward, the East End, and Southeast Houston
- The University of Houston (UH) (1927) – Has several art installations on the campus.
- MacGregor Park’s (1925) statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Private home with an observation deck on it.
- The Orange Show, found by Jeff McKissack (1902 – 1980) in 1979.
- Smither Park and the Memory Wall (2015).
- Forest Park Cemetery at Lawndale (1921 and 1922) with its Last Supper, face of Jesus that seems to turn in all directions, two Tiffany stained-glass windows, and many other monuments, sculptures, and statues. It has 255 acres. We always have to be respectful if a solemn ceremony is taking place. The Tiffany stained-glass windows are inside a mausoleum to be viewed.
- The Law Offices of Tim Hootman in railroad cars and the metal sculpture of a busty woman.
- The East End Esplanade at Navigation (2013).
- Project Row Houses (1939 and 1994). This is only open on Sunday and Wednesday through Saturday.
- Lots of Murals.
You will have your choice of any number of interesting and eclectic restaurants on the southeast side of Houston. Everyone pays for his/her own meal. This area has many good Mexican and Asian restaurants.
Houston Folk and Public Art Tour C — Central and South Houston
This area includes the Third Ward and West University Place.
Hermann Park (1914)
- Statues of:
- Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE)
- Dick Dowling (1838 – 1867)
- George Hermann (1843 – 1914)
- Sam Houston (1793 – 1863)
- Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968)
- Oliver Twist
- Busts of over ½ dozen Latin American and Asian liberators and leaders and Robert Burns (1759 – 1796), poet laureate of Scotland. The liberators include:
- Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830)
- Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (1490 – 1558)
- Ramon Castilla y Marquesado (1797 – 1867)
- Benito Juarez (1806 – 1872)
- Jose Marti (1853 – 1895)
- Bernardo O’Higgins (1778 – 1842)
- Vicente Rocafuerte (1783 – 1847)
- Jose P. Rizal (1861 – 1896)
- Jose de San Martin (1778 – 1850)
- Japanese lantern (1982).
- Chinese pagoda.
- The Atropos Key statue (1972) at the top of the hill by Miller Outdoor Theatre (MOT) (1923 and 1968).
- Charles Umlauf’s (1911 – 1994) Hope for Humanity statue (1972). Umlauf was one of the three greatest Texas artists.
- Two sets of fountains with columns surrounding them. One fountain has the Cancer, There is Hope sculpture.
- Statue of Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506) in Bell Park.
- Topiary of a fisherman in front of a seafood restaurant.
Museum of Fine Arts Houston (1900 and 1924)
- Golden tree.
- Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen (1881 – 1957) Sculpture Garden (1986). This secluded area has over one-dozen statues and sculptures including works of Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) and Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin (1840 – 1917).
Rice University (1912)
- A section of the Berlin Wall (1961) was installed here in 2000.
- Scattered art installations.
- A statue of a boar.
- River Oaks Plant House with its many topiaries.
University of St. Thomas (1947)
- Philip Johnson’s (1906 – 2005) crooked cross and Chapel of St. Basil (1997).
- Labrynth (2006).
Upper Kirby District
- Two-story long-horned armadillo.
- Destiny’s Child mural on the House of Dereon,
- 1991 house designed to look like the mask of Darth Vader. This is in West University Place.
- Texas Pipe & Supply Company Inc.’s metal sculptures including Godzilla, King Kong, Snoopy, and over one dozen other structures. This is outside the I-610 Loop.
- Three Mecom Fountains (1964) – the second most popularly photographed area in Houston.
- The Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT)’s 1936 Log Cabin celebrating Texas’s independence.
- Barnett Newman’s (1905 – 1970) Broken Obelisk (between 1963 and 1967) dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was placed here in 1970.
- The Woman’s Hospital of Texas statue of a nurse tossing a baby overhead to his/her mother.
- NRG Stadium’s statue of running bulls. NRG opened as Reliant Stadium in 2002.
- Various works of art in the vicinity by the Menil Collection.
Several good restaurants are in the Rice Village and by the University of St. Thomas area. Everyone pays for his/her own meal.
Houston Folk and Public Art Tour D — Southwest and West Houston
This tour also includes the city of West University Place and goes outside of the I-610 Loop and Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway Loop.
- Two Vietnam Monuments including one of fleeing boat people and one of South Vietnamese and United States soldiers united in their fight. The Vietnam War Memorial was installed in 2005.
- Series of statues of what appear to be mythical gods and goddesses.
- Streetcar. The “Toonerville Trolley” streetcar service existed from here to Houston from 1910 to 1927.
- Dragon topiary.
- Gerald D. Hines Waterwall (1985).
- Gus S. Wortham (1891 – 1976) Fountain (1978).
- Jaume Piensa’s Tolerance Statues of 7 Muslims in prayer position (2011).
- Statues of an alligator, elephant, and gorilla.
Several good restaurants exist in Asian Town, Bellaire, the Galleria area, and Uptown Park. Everyone pays for his/her own meal. Tell us what you would like to eat and that is where we will stop.