SPACES and Kohler Foundation Celebrate New Partnership

Close

Jeff McKissack, Orange Show

ShareAdd page to my spaces
  • Location:

    Houston, Texas, USA (Map)

  • Status:

    Extant

  • Artist:
  • Built:

    1968 to 1979

  • Materials:

    brick, concrete, paint, tile, iron, sand, stone, umbrellas, wagon wheels

Visiting Information

Open to the public weekends from 10 am to 2 pm, weather permitting. Admission to the site is $5 for adults; children 12 and under may enter free of charge. The site is also available for private rental, and for group tours, field trips, concerts, and workshops.

About the Artist/Site

Former produce-hauler and mail carrier Jeff McKissack, a firm believer that healthy living could empower a happy and productive life, spent over a decade years creating a tangible homage to the orange, his favorite fruit and the foundation for his belief in longevity.

Jefferson Davis McKissack Jr. was born at home in Georgia to Jefferson Davis McKissack and Beulah Cummings Hill; his father, coming from a staunch family of disappointed Confederates, ran a dry goods store in Fort Gaines. The couple had seven children, with Jeff the second  youngest; he enjoyed school and had the kind of idyllic rural upbringing about which southern romantic novels would rhapsodize. In 1921, he entered Mercer University, in Macon; it was such a conservative campus that in 1924 one of the biology professors was dismissed for teaching the theory of evolution. McKissack graduated with his BS degree in commerce in 1925, and, following graduation, he moved to New York City. He worked for a bank and enrolled in the master’s program at Columbia University, but he dropped out after a year; by 1930 he had made his way to southern California. And although there is no direct evidence, it is likely that while living there, in the town of Signal Hill, McKissack would have become aware of the National Orange Show, located roughly an hour away in San Bernardino. This 100,000-square-foot exposition had opened in 1911; its elaborate programming offerings in honor of the prospering local citrus industry were underwritten by municipal leaders.

After McKissack moved back to Fort Gaines in the early 1930s, he experimented with several small businesses, but during the Depression he was reduced to hauling oranges from Florida across the South. He bought several small parcels of land with his earnings, but sold them all in 1940 and moved out to Jacksonville, Florida. He served in the US Air Force during World War II, and after his Honorable Discharge returned to Jacksonville to a job welding ships for the navy; this practice in construction would ultimately serve him well. Following his mother’s death in late 1948, however, he “went to pieces,” so much so that his siblings committed him to a mental institution for evaluation. After his release, he wanted a fresh start, so by 1951 he had moved to Houston. There, he again seemed to cast around for the perfect situation: he hauled produce, worked at the post office, took out a permit to open a beauty salon, and established a nursery and worm farm. It was not until some fifteen years later that he had the idea to create what would become The Orange Show, and began his compulsive labors.

But even before that, he had been collecting building supplies – tiles, bricks, fencing, metal implements and gears – including salvaged fire escapes – and more, which he would haul back to his lot. Slowly, he began to put these recycled materials to good use, ultimately creating a multi-level maze of platforms, walkways, displays areas, and enclosures. A variety of exhibits illustrated his belief that a long and happy life results from good nutrition and productive labor, and he penned a small “book,” How You Can Live to Be 100 and Still Be Spry. He purchased mannequins and signs and tractor seats and wagon wheels, and welded many of the metal components into figures, which he painted in vivid colors, often labeling them with exhortations to abide by his advice. On May 9, 1979, he opened The Orange Show to the public.

Water fountains, statuary, metal birds, a museum of oddities, a “stadium” that holds up to 250 visitors, and a circular painted steamboat pond were some of the enhancements that McKissack had made to his site. Although only around 150 visitors showed up on opening day, soon word of his environment spread, and it became much beloved and championed by the local art community. Yet within nine months of his opening, McKissack suffered a stroke from which he never recovered, and he died two days before his 78th birthday.

Luckily, he had become friends with Marilyn Oshman, former president of the board of Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum, art collector, and heir to the Oshman Sporting Goods fortune. And while he left all of his property to a nephew in Santa Barbara, he had cautioned the young man to call Ms. Oshman if something were to happen to him. Alarmed that McKissack’s masterpiece might fall into disrepair and ruin, Oshman mobilized her friends to donate to and ultimately form a nonprofit foundation to preserve the site. An administrative staff led by Susanne Theis, the first director, worked to stabilize and enhance it, and The Orange Show reopened to the public in 1982.

Since that time the Foundation has purchased and supported additional sites in Houston, including John Milkovisch’s Beer Can House, and has developed a creative and energizing series of programs, enlivening the site and linking it to Houston’s art community and beyond. Among their programs is the world famous art car parade each spring, but there is also a mural park, a library, and a variety of art programs for at-risk youth within the community.

Renamed the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Jeff McKissack’s homage to his favorite fruit has become an important part of Houston’s cultural arts scene. It receives funding through a variety of local, state, and national grants, and is open to the public weekends from 10 am to 2 pm, weather permitting. Admission to the site is $5 for adults; children 12 and under may enter free of charge. The site is also available for private rental, and for group tours, field trips, concerts, and workshops. Additional donations are always welcome.

~Jo Farb Hernández



SPACES Archive Holdings

1 folder: images, correspondence, pamphlets, press releases, postcards

Related Documents

Letter to Susanne Demchack, the orange show foundation from SPACES/Seymour Rosen

Letter to SPACES/Terri Hartman and Seymour Rosen from Susanne Demchak, The Orange Show, 5/15/1989

Letter to Susanne Demchack, the orange show foundation from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 8/8/1989

Letter to Susanne Demchack, the orange show foundation from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 7/26/1989

Letter to Susanne Demchack, the orange show foundation from SPACES, 4/27/1989

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen and Cynthia Pansing from Susanne Demchak, the Orange Show, 12/14/1988

Letter to Susanne Demchack, the orange show foundation from SPACES/Seymour Rosen and Cynthia Pansing, 11/21/1988

Letter to SPACES/Cynthia Pansing from Susanne Demchak, The Orange Show, 11/4/1988

Letter to Marilyn Lubetkin from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 12/19/1986

Letter to SPACES/Elaine Wintman from Caroline Bowles, The Orange Show, 12/1/1986

Site plan of The Orange Show

Letter to Caroline Bowles, The Orange Show Foundation from SPACES/Elaine Wintman, 11/19/1986

Letter to SPACES from Caroline Bowles, The Orange Show Foundation, 11/6/1986

Letter to Caroline Bowles, The Orange Show Foundation from SPACES/Elaine Wintman, 8/21/1986

Letter to SPACES from Caroline Bowles, The Orange Show Foundation, 8/7/1986

postcard to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Susanne (Demchak?), 6/13/1984

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Susanne Demchak, The Orange Show Foundation, 5/29/1984

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Susanne Demchak, The Orange Show Foundation, 1/27/1983

Postcard to SPACES/R. Sue Smith from Susanne Demchak/The Orange Show, 2/19/1993

Letter to Susanne Demchack, the orange show foundation from SPACES/Seymour Rosen and R. Sue Smith, 1/18/1983

Voting Ballot for The Orange Show

Letter to Senator John G. Tower from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 10/18/1982

Letter to Editor, The Houston Post from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 10/18/1982

Letter to Senator Lloyd Bentsen from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 10/18/1982

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Marilyn Lubetkin,The Orange Show Foundation, 10/6/1982

Letter to Marilyn Lubetkin from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 9/20/1982

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Marilyn Lubetkin,The Orange Show Foundation, 1/10/1982

Letter to Joseph F. Lomax from SPACES/Seymour Rosen

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Joseph F. Lomax, 8/26/1981

Letter to Marilyn Lubetkin from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 9/20/1980?

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Marilyn Lubetkin,The Orange Show Foundation, 7/2/1980

info about call from Gordon Carroll, 3/20/1980

Press Release for The Orange Show, 10/21/1991

Press Release for the Orange Show 10th Anniversary, 5/9/1989

Art Car Weekend at The Orange Show, 4/18/1996

Press Release for Events at The Orange Show, 1991

Press Release for Events at The Orange Show, 1991

pamphlet for The Orange Show

Press Release for The Orange Show

The Orange Show Foundation Benefit

The Orange Show Statement of Purpose

Press Release for The Orange Show

The Orange Show Bibliograpy, 4/1984

Biography of Jeff McKissack

Fax from Susanne Theis, The Orange Show to Larry Harris, 7/1/1994

Letter to SPACES/ Seymour Rosen from Susanne Theis, The Orange Show, 8/1/1994

Letter to Susanne Theis/The Orange Show from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 3/2/1995

postcard to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Chuck?, 7/2000

invitation to The Annual Orange Show Closing Party, 12/15/1995

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 7/8/1988

Visitor’s guide to The Orange Show Foundation

The Brown Lectures at The Orange Show, 11/30/1991

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar

Postcard to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from The Orange Show, 3/7/1986

Invitation to Preview Opening of TX Crossroads Exhibition, 10/4/1984

Response card for invitation to preview opening of TX Crossroads Exhibition, 9/25/1994

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Concert Series for Children

Card for The Orange Show season closing festivities, 12/6/1985

Invitation to The Orange Show’s annual end of season party, 12/10/1988

announcement of movie showings

Invitation to 10th Anniversary of Grand Opening of The Orange Show, 5/9/1989

Dedication of the Orange Show Foundation, 9/25/1982

Reservation card for dedication of the Orange Show Foundation

pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1988

Invitation to Robert Bishop lecture, 6/12/1988

Invitation to Halloween Masquerade, 10/30/1987

response card for Halloween Masquerade, 10/30/1987

Invitation to Halloween Masquerade Gala, 10/28/1988

List of Sponsors and Gala Committee for Halloween Masquerade Gala, 1988

Image included in Halloween Masquerade Gala invitation, 1988

Response card for Halloween Masquerade, 1988

Response card to Orange Show Gala, 1986

Invitation to the Orange Show Gala, 10/31/1986

Schedule of events for Patron’s Day, 9/24/1983

Reservation card for Patron’s Day, 9/24/1983

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1985

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1987

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1987

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1987

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1987

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1986

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1985

Pamphlet for The Orange Show Events Calendar, 1986

list of workshops and events at the Orange Show, 1992

list of cards for The Orange Show

Invitation to the Grand Opening of The Orange Show, 9/25/1982

postcard for The Orange Show, 1982

postcard for The Orange Show, 1984

postcard for The Orange Show, 1984

postcard for The Orange Show, 1984

postcard for The Orange Show, 1983

bumper sticker for The Orange Show

list of underwriters, sponsors, and committee for The Orange Show benefit, 1984

response card for Orange Show benefit, 1984

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Susanna Demchak, The Orange Show, 1984

Survey of Orange Show Museum

Press Release for The Orange Show Foundation, 12/6/2001

Draft for Nomination form for National Register of Historic Places

cover sheet for Project Manual for The Orange Show

Martha Simpson Grant CV, rate schedule, and quote for work

memo for tub caulking

draft for Bud Goldstone presentatation, 10/20/1999

Letter to Bud Goldstone from Susanne Theis, The Orange Show Foundation, 10/11/1999

Application for Historic Preservation Fund Grant

Letter to Bud Goldstone from Susanne Theis, The Orange Show Foundation, 12/15/1999

diagram of The Orange Show site

Application for NEA Grant

Letter to Bud Goldstone from Susanne Theis, The Orange Show Foundation, 10/13/1999

School Tour info for The Orange Show

letter to Susanne Theis, The Orange Show from Bud Goldstone, 9/27/1999

Letter to Bud Goldstone from Susanne Theis, The Orange Show Foundation, 9/28/1999

Letter to Fred C. Fussell, Georgia Historical Society from Bud Goldstone, 9/27/1999

Letter to Bud Goldstone from Fred C. Fussell, 9/28/1999

Letter to Bud Goldstone from Martha Simpson Grant, 11/9/1999

memo attached with various images of The Orange Show

 Registration Form for the National Register of the Historic Places, 10/1990

Map and site information

2401 Munger St
Houston, Texas, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 29.717897 / -95.324351

Visiting Information

Open to the public weekends from 10 am to 2 pm, weather permitting. Admission to the site is $5 for adults; children 12 and under may enter free of charge. The site is also available for private rental, and for group tours, field trips, concerts, and workshops.

Discussion

We welcome visitors' comments about this site. If you have additional information you feel should be included, or have questions or comments, please share your thoughts with us here.

Leave Your Comment

The SPACES website allows you to save your favorite art environments and share them with your friends or colleagues. Create your own portfolio of your favorites from environments in the online collection.

Send them to your friends, post them on Facebook or to your Twitter account!

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces