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Peter Marzio's Vision on Wheels

The Art Car that exited through the gift shop: A special Houston museums car rattles the parade

News_Skydive art car
Oh no! The Houston Area Museums Art Car has crashed into all of the museums! Photo by Steven Thomson
News_Skydive art car
Rachel Hewlett and Kristy Peet work on the car's hood. Photo by Steven Thomson
News_Skydive art car
Museums have donated such objects as a colonial boat and toy hearse. Photo by Steven Thomson
News_Skydive art car
News_Skydive art car
News_Skydive art car

The wit and whimsy of Houston's lionized Art Car Parade is crashing into next week's American Association of Museums 2011 Annual Meeting. The car culprit is a disused SUV, outfitted by a team of artists at Skydive art collective to resemble a car that has driven through the gift shop and collections of the over 100 Houston area museums.

"My favorite part is the hearse with the casket popping out," said artist Rachel Hewlett as she glue-gunned pieces of white sequined elastic bands reminiscent of junior high Jazzercise classes.

Those pliant bits of polyester have been arranged on the car hood to resemble the city's streetscape, engulfing a topographical map that represents where museums are located, from the institutional abundance in the Museum District, to the secluded Museum of East Texas in Lufkin. 

The car's crew, which includes Hewlett, Skydive-cofounder Sasha Dela, David McClain and Kristy Peet, unleashed an open call to museums to submit information and gift shop tchotchkes to adorn the vehicle. The response was overwhelming, and now, vibrant fragments of museum maps, exhibition posters and annual reports have been shellacked onto the car's surface.

Other museum ephemera decks the roof, from a brain donated by the Health Museum to a docked miniature colonial ship, care of the Maritime Museum. The interior has been upholstered in tourist T-shirts from such organizations as DiverseWorks, NASA and Lawndale Art Center.

When the museum art car is unveiled at Sunday's parade at Eleanor Tinsley Park, it will represent the realization of a dream of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Peter Marzio, who died last December. Formerly the chair of the AAM conference, Marzio envisioned an art car entry that embodied the diversity of Houston museums, coining the description of a car that looks "like it drove through every museum (and its gift shop) in Houston."

Following the Art Car Parade, the Houston Area Museums Art Car will be on view in the MuseumExpo Hall at George R. Brown Convention Center during AAM, May 22 - 25.

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