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Discover Houston's Mosaic Folk Art at Smither Park

January 29, 2019

Nestled in the middle of a residential block in Houston's east side sits Smither Park, home to mosaic folk art created by local artists and dedicated to John H. Smither, a local supporter and collector of American Folk Art. 

 

The park had its grand opening celebration in 2016, but it is a constant work in progress. Located next door to the Orange Show, Smither Park is a wonderland of recycled materials re-purposed into captivating and colorful artwork. Everything from light posts to trashcans to benches are covered with discarded and found materials like bathroom tiles, trinkets, bottle caps, water bottles, street signs, and steel wiring. On our most recent visit we were able to speak to two artists who were actively creating and adding their personal touch to the park.

Mark is an artist who has made multiple contributions to the park since its inception. We met him on a Sunday morning as he was placing small squares of white tile he'd cut from larger pieces.

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This particular art project began in August 2018 and Mark estimates that it'll be complete by the summer of 2019. The idea for "Frosty Bob the Snowman" came from the overabundance of white bathroom tile available in the supplies warehouse located on site for artists. Mark said he wanted to put the white tile to use, and what better way to do that than with a snowman? 

 

In order to create the three rounded tiers for the snowman, Mark and his partner began with steel mesh molded into a round shape. In order for the material to hold its shape, they filled it with discarded golf balls, styrofoam and mortar before covering it in fiberglass dipped in mortar. After months of working on the base, the fun part of placing tiles began. Mark estimates that they'll use 2,500 squares of white bathroom tile to cover the surface area of Frosty Bob. If it sounds tedious, it is, but, as Mark explains, it can really help you to destress from a busy week.

 

"It's a way to relax and let my thoughts go. I'm able to focus only on where my next tile will go," Mark explained as he allowed us to place two tiles on the belly of the snowman.

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Visitors who come to the park on Saturdays are likely to meet artists as they assemble their art.  You might even get a chance to contribute to a piece of art yourself!

 

Jeannine, who goes by Gina, was another artist we met at Smither Park. We spoke as she was cutting and preparing beautiful, discarded bathroom tiles to be applied to the base of a cement table. The tiles were colorful and we could already see them catching light from the sun.

 

"They almost look like candy," Gina said as we admired the bags of tile she had laid out on the table. "They'll look beautiful with the sun's light reflecting off of them."

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Gina's earliest venture into Houston's local art scene began in 1993 when she saw her first art car while attending the International Festival in downtown Houston. She was astounded by the creativity and eventually she converted her own vehicle into a smoke-breathing dragon. It was from that point that she always found a way to allow creativity and art to flourish in her life. The most recent way being creating mosaic art at Smither Park.

 

It's easy to pass hours wandering through the park.

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It's ripe with Instagramable photo ops, but if you look at the art closely, all of it tells a story worthy of sharing.
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Have you been to Smither Park?

What's your favorite part about it? Let us know in the comments!

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