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The Orange Show Foundation

Last week, the Texas Historical Foundation presented their recent grant to the Orange Show Foundation on site at the famous Houston outsider art installation. The piece was created by Houstonian Jeff McKissack over the span of several decades in his unassuming suburban neighborhood.

A postal worker by day and artist by night, McKissack began his efforts in 1956, adding to the structure as time and materials allowed. By the time he opened the Show to the public over 20 years later, he had assembled salvaged materials into 3,000 square feet of dense, visually cacophonous sculptural environment dedicated to his love of oranges.   

It’s said that McKissack firmly believed that the Orange Show would prove a popular destination, but it’s difficult to imagine that he would have conceived of the cult status that the piece has achieved in the decades following his death. He survived less than a year after opening his creation to the public in 1979, at which point The Orange Show was treated as a roadside curiosity. In the years since, it has since become a pilgrimage destination for lovers of folk art around the world. 

This THF grant from the William Jack Sibley Arts Endowment supports ongoing efforts to restore and maintain the beloved sculptural environment, the oldest parts of which are approaching 70 years old. Because of the piecemeal nature of the work, efforts to maintain the piece are complex, requiring fidelity to aesthetic as well as structural integrity.   

To learn more about the Orange Show Foundation's present efforts to preserve and promote outsider art in Houston, visit their website. For further reading on McKissack and the Orange Show, visit the Jeff McKissack entry in the Texas State Historical Association's excellent Handbook of Texas.