The cancellation of the annual Art Car Parade this past spring must rank among the most disheartening for Houstonians. The 33-year-old event draws hundreds of thousands of onlookers that begin gathering early in the day to watch several hundred altered vehicles parade through downtown.
Artist Joe Hale Haden wondered if not creating an art car the first time in 30 years as a participant brought this on. Who hasn’t thought that “what if” scenario?
Life already had other plans for Haden this year even before the Art Car Parade was canceled. He had been living in Crockett since 2011, taking care of his mother and the ranch where she was born.
“My wife Toni and I got married last summer after we had to put my mother into a nursing home due to a stroke,” Haden said. “We bought a house in Houston this past Valentine’s Day, and a few weeks later everything shut down. We moved back to Houston to get away from isolation.”
Haden was born in Houston, and his professional background is in both art and engineering as he said he has a degree in both.
“I designed parts for the stealth bomber and the Osprey early in my career then became a home designer and builder for 25 years in Houston,” he said.
That pull between art and engineering was a lifelong battle. Today Haden can devote himself to his love of art full-time. Haden came across my radar last summer when he won second place for his 3D piece titled “Paradox of Containment” at the 11th Annual Archway Gallery Juried Art Show. Haden is also a member artist at Archway.
There seems to be some irony with Haden’s winning sculpture being named “Paradox of Containment,” considering life this year. The sculpture is an old metal gas can that Haden cut out with an intricate design throughout.
“The gas can is the style of art I do,” Haden said. “Most of my art is with found objects. Currently, I’m working on a series of torsos using piano parts and zipper pulls from airport luggage. I also cut holes in everything metal. I like to play with the positive and negative space.”
But with COVID-19 came closures and cancellations of everything. The art community, especially, has been hit hard. Another aspect is the loss of socializing, a rather huge component to the art car community and gallery openings.
“With no art opening at the gallery for the time being and no parade, I decided to have a series of small art car events,” Haden said.
In true artist style, Haden organized several tributes to the Art Car Parade in the form of processionals. A processional is legal as long as participants follow traffic laws. The first processional happened May 10 and began on the esplanade of Heights Boulevard in front of the Art Car Museum.
“More people than expected showed up, but that wasn’t a problem because there was no traffic. The streets were empty,” Haden said. “We made our way down Montrose Boulevard heading for the Medical Center and Hermann Park before heading up through the Heights. Everyone involved enjoyed it and felt a little more normal even if it was for only an hour.”
For the second event in June, Haden created a scavenger hunt with 20 items that drivers would have to snap a photo with them or their art car in the picture. This processional lasted about an hour and 40 minutes.
“Saturday, August 22 was my dog Mrs. Jones’ 13th birthday and my friend Haider Ali from Pakistan was suppose to be here painting art cars across the USA as he has the last 18 summers,” Haden said. “So I decided to have this event be Haider Ali Day.
“I was happy to see my art car family and that a small group showed,” Haden added. “A small taste of normal, sort of. We ended in a secret art car hideout location and had fun talking and admiring each other’s artful masks.”
Nov. 7 is World Art Car Day, and there’s a very good chance the annual nighttime processional will take place. Follow houstonartcarklub.com for details on art car activities.
Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com for additional highlights and artist’s stories.