Shell-studded Citroën at Houston’s ArtCar Museum (Scarborough photo)Sure, we could have spent our Houston, Texas weekend seeing the well-regarded Menil Collection artworks or the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, but no….

I want my artistic experiences to have a tad more funk, so instead we went to the ArtCar Museum, aka “Garage Mahal.”

Houston is a huge city that’s full of surprises, especially for those who have never been to Texas and have, shall we say, less than accurate opinions about what the state is like.

Why yes, those ARE coffee pots on that car, ArtCar Museum, Houston (Scarborough photo)

There is a lively arts community here, with a particular interest in contemporary and folk art.

Every year since 1988 (normally in April or May) Houston’s Art Car Parade draws hundreds of vehicular entrants and thousands of cheering spectators, but visitors can view a few of the more amazing cars year-round at this small Museum.

From the Museum Web site:

“The Museum has its conceptual origins in the 1984 Collision Show at the Lawndale Art Center which saw the unveiling of Larry Fuente’s Mad Cad….the Museum showroom celebrates the spirit of this post-modern age of car-culture, in which individuals have remolded the factory-model sameness of their automobiles to the specifications of their own idiosyncratic images and visions.”

Rear view of one model, ArtCar Museum, Houston TX (Scarborough photo)

The intricacy of the artwork, the imaginative use of every bit of available automotive real estate, a friendly, knowledgeable staff and the great price to get in (free!) makes for an unbeatable combination.

We got a little turned around finding it (going past the well-regarded Star Pizza in the process, if you’re looking for a place to eat nearby) but once you’re on the right street, you can’t miss the bizarro, Mad Max-ish metallic Museum exterior.

I found a slide show of 18 amazing autos and another site with photos of almost every car in the 2008 parade.

For those who want to learn more about this art form, look at the comprehensive and enthusiastic Art Car Central blog.

(ArtCar Museum 140 Heights Blvd. Houston, TX 77007 (713) 861 – 5526. Admission is free, open Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm. Post title partial credit to the Beatles’ “Drive My Car.”)