Houston Stories and Tips

Stop #3: Museums in the Heights

Feo y Loco ArtCar Photo, Houston, Texas

The first place we found in the Heights was the ArtCar Museum, which, along with the ArtCar Parade, is designed to showcase art that more traditional institutions will not. Located at 140 Heights Boulevard (between Washington Ave and the Katy Freeway), we somehow managed to only notice it as we drove past, even though the building was one of the most distinctive structures I had seen in a long time. The ArtCar Museum's website says that the "Garage Mahal"'s roof "evokes a Byzantine temple and its silvery carport provides an agora for people to meet beneath the giant Texas sky and the star of solidarity." Essentially, it is a striking, giant silver building that looks like someone has covered it in tinfoil decorations. Sitting under the carport and in the 711 parking lot next door are not your typical cars; one was visibly a souped-up bathtub, while another had so many colors sprinkled across its chrome that I felt it should have come complete with a pot of gold and a leprechaun.

In the left-hand corner of the driveway, a cowboy on his horse was a splash of brown against the otherwise very silver exterior of the museum. This was what we had been sent to find; we had to find out what "the man on the horse in front of the museum" was holding. It turns out that, not surprisingly, the cowboy had a gun. I should mention that this was not a real cowboy, nor a typical statue of one; rather, he was made completely of rather rusted metal that made him look like, perhaps, he had been sitting there since cowboys actually rode their horses down the streets of Houston (which, contrary to what many people ask me in other countries, does not happen today - at least, when it's not February/rodeo time).

As much as we wished we could go into the museum, take in the exhibits (which showcase non-car artwork as well), and just stand and gaze at the creative cars before us, we wouldn't have made it very far on our quest that way. Instead, we posed together on an interesting car grill that doubled as a seat outside the front entrance before getting back in my very boring, monochrome car. We were there long enough to find out that the museum is only open Wednesday-Sunday (since it doesn't exactly have the sponsorship of other, slightly larger museums) from 11-6. I thought there was a small admission price, but I could find no mention of it on their website. I would guess that it is somewhere in the range of $5.

The other, quite out-of-the-ordinary museum we found in the Heights was the Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston (MOCAH for short). To get here, we drove east on Washington Ave, turned left on Sawyer Rd, and then, after passing plenty of warehouses, turned left on Summer Street. The smell that greeted us was disgusting; we don't know what the warehouses were holding, but it couldn't be anything good. We soon switched to breathing solely through our mouths, but luckily the smell wasn't nearly as bad at the actual museum. Part of the museum was outdoors and didn't exactly house a typical collection of artifacts. In fact, we could see some of the "artifacts" as we pulled up - 32 president's busts, each approximately 15 feet tall. People had told me about them beforehand, but I thought they would be normal-sized, not three times my height!

As we walked down the red carpet leading from the outer fences of the museum, we attempted to identify the different figures before us. Unfortunately, we were only successful with the obvious ones - Lincoln & Teddy Roosevelt, for example - and the more recent ones. It seemed like there were presidents hiding everywhere too - at least as much as a 15-foot-tall figure can hide - since we walked to the end of the walkway and found it turned a corner and held at least five more presidents; on our return walk, we looked to our right and saw a lot full of in-progress presidents. There must have been some sort of event going on, since there were a lot of people hanging around (and not just the stunned Rice students trying to fathom the reason for such a huge number of giant presidential busts) as well as a greeting table just outside the entrance and just in front of Abe Lincoln's decapitated head. We didn't get to see everyone's favorite president, but I have a feeling they are waiting until after his term has been over for a while so they don't have to constantly clean graffiti/eggs/rotten fruit off of it.

The last interesting place we found in The Heights has an entry to itself - "The Beer Can House."

Been to this destination?

Share Your Story or Tip