HOUSTON — It’s the organization that puts on Houston’s Art Car Parade, takes care of Smither Park and preserves the Beer Can House, but The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art got its start with a Houston hidden gem.
"This space was built by a man who didn’t have any formal training in building or architecture," said the center's Jonathan Beitler. "He put it together to create an ode to his favorite fruit."
The result is The Orange Show monument. Jeff McKissack, a Houston postal worker, started work on it in the mid-1950s.
"He spent about 30 years building it," Beitler said. "And it’s completely covered in mosaic tiles, found objects, pieces that he picked up and found throughout the city and throughout his travels."
The Orange Show's doors opened in 1979, but McKissack passed away shortly after.
RELATED: HIDDEN GEM: Beer Can House
"The arts community rallied around it and formed the foundation, which today is The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art with the mission to preserve and promote places such as this," said Beitler. "We want to celebrate the artist that’s within everybody. Because Jeff McKissack was not an artist, but we consider this to be a really incredible form of art that he created."
The National Park Service does too, which is why it recently awarded The Orange Show a $500,000 Save America's Treasures grant, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
"This grant is going to really help us restore The Orange Show back to how it was when it was first built and continue the tradition of The Orange Show for many generations to come," Beitler said.
RELATED: HIDDEN GEM: Smither Park
A conservation corps of artists is already working on the restoration by painting walls and re-laying tile. More artists are invited to join the effort.
"It’s a really great opportunity for people to experience something different in the city," said Beitler.
Learn more about The Orange Show here.