the orange show

artist: jeff mckissack (1902 - 1980)
built: c. 1956 (exterior walls) / 1968 - 1979 (main construction)
where: 2401 munger street, houston, texas
status: open to the public; call (713) 926-6368 for tour info
orange show web info
1977 Texas Monthly magazine article
1978 newspaper article

Built in a working class neighborhood of east Houston, Jefferson Davis McKissack's Orange Show is commonly described as a fun, colorful mini-amusement park dedicated to the power of the orange. It is, in fact, one of the most architecturally sophisticated of U.S. folk art sites, a multi-layered, multi-spatial, maze-like environment composed of the program elements of a classic Greek city (theater, museum, agora, & temple).

McKissack, a postman who ventured into many side businesses, started building the Orange Show in the mid 1960s, after he gave up on plans to initially open a plant nursery, then later a beauty parlor. He envisioned his new construction as a monument to health, good living, and specifically, that Vitamin C-packed wonder, the orange. Using cast-off materials from scrap yards and Houston's constant building demolition, McKissack began to piece together a rich collage of tiles & bricks, stairs & corridors, wagon wheels & flags.

When he opened the Orange Show to the public in 1979, McKissack predicted that it would draw thousands, rivaling the Astrodome as a city tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the crowds didn't come, and he passed away just a few months later. Luckily, a group of Houston's leading art patrons saw the importance of McKissack's creation and purchased the property from his nephew. Following a renovation, the Show opened again, this time supported by a foundation that sought not only to preserve the monument, but also to promote activities that would realize McKissack's dream of a citywide gathering place. Through its 20+ years of existence, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art has grown to become a major institution for visionary art awareness, supporting art workshops, mural projects, lectures, films, the Eyeopener Tours program, as well as the nationally-renowned Art Car Weekend, held annually in May.

As a long-time volunteer, all I can say is, come to Houston and enjoy The Show.


larger, higher resolution version of these photos on Flickr















































photo taken by a google bird



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all photos copyright Lawrence Harris, except where noteed


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