As our city and community continue to bunker down and fight our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are looking for ways to stay sane and find inspiration. That’s why now more than ever, art in public spaces is vital to our community in keeping our city connected and thriving. Houston is bursting with unique public art experiences that foster our Houstonian pride and bring life back to its surrounding environments and residents. Outdoor public art is best viewed while social distancing which makes it the perfect activity to do while we continue to keep our distance to remain safe.

Houston has funded many public spaces to include different types of art installations, like sculptures, interactive pieces, and most famously, murals all over the city limits. Parks like Discovery Green, Market Square, and Hermann Park all house numerous public artworks for its community to enjoy. Here are ten must-see outdoor public artworks in Houston.

Da Vinci mural in houston

1. Buffalo Bayou Park

Located right across the street from Forthea, Buffalo Bayou Park is 160 acres of green space, expanding between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive. It contains several public art pieces to find while enjoying many of its other perks, like hike and bike trails, the Johnny Steele Dog park, and the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony. A few noteworthy artworks to check out while strolling the park include:

Tolerance by Jaume Plensa

Positioned at Allen Parkway and Montrose, these seven kneeling sculptures were installed in 2011. Created by Spanish sculptor, Jaume Plensa, the figures are to represent the seven continents reflecting Plensa’s belief that no matter where we are from or the language we speak, all of our lives are similar.

The Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain 

Created by Houston architect, William T. Cannady, the Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain, aka the Dandelion Fountain, is a sight to behold, day or night. It offers a cool-mist for passersby and the perfect Instagram-worthy selfie.

Monumental Moments by Anthony Shumate

Scattered throughout Buffalo Bayou Park along the Kinder Footpath, Monumental Moments is a series of 6 four-foot-tall sculptures of single word thoughts –Explore, Pause, Reflect, Listen, Emerge, and Observe.

Open Channel Flow by Matthew Geller 

Stationed near the Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark, Geller’s sculpture is constructed partially from the pipes of The Water Works and includes a hand pump-activated outdoor shower. While using the “shower”, a flashing light at the top of the 60-foot structure signals its being in use.

Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston TX

2. TRUE NORTH 2021 

TRUE NORTH 2021 is a temporary public art installation that occurs every year since 2013 and is a Heights Boulevard sculpture project sponsored by Houston Heights Association. TRUE NORTH 2021 is made up of 8 sculptures all made by Texas artists. Installed in the heart of Houston Heights, the sculptures bring excitement to its environment and offer a safe and fun activity to do outside.

3. Smither Park

Sitting on the corner of the Third Ward and East End neighborhoods, Smither Park is located next to the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. It is an ongoing artwork in progress and on Saturday mornings, you can visit the park and watch the artists in action! Smither Park contains mosaic-embedded walkways, over 60 different mosaic panels, and a beautiful meditation garden.

Smither Park mosaic statue

4. Move One Place On Sculpture

Located in the southeast corner of the Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, Move One Place On by Bridgette Mongeon is an interactive bronze sculpture inspired by the tea party scene in Lewis Carrol’s novel, Alice in Wonderland. This larger-than-life sculpture allows people to sit at the table and “interact” with the famous characters from the book, like Alice, the Cheshire Cat, and the Mad Hatter himself! If you pay close attention to the sculpture, you will be able to find different elements from the book that Mongeon has hidden throughout her piece.

Alice in Wonderland statue in Evelyn's Park

5. Richmond Avenue Sculpture Trail

Installed last year in June, the Richmond Ave Sculpture Trail is the start of a program that aims at providing a “rotating museum” experience to the daily drivers down Richmond Ave and will extend to Hillcroft Street. On view now are three sculptures on the median between Chimney Rock and South Rice, all created by Houston artists. This project is the first phase of the St. George Place Redevelopment Authority’s mission to improve and beautified Richmond Ave.

6. James Turrell Skyspace

One of Houston’s most famous public artworks, Twilight Epiphany, the James Turrell Skyspace, is nestled on the campus of Rice University next to the Shepherd School of Music. The music students use the Skyspace as their very own experimentative studio to test its acoustics and sound. Twilight Epiphany is engineered to host musical performances and comes to life at sunrise and sunset with glowing light sequences. This piece is a meditative sculpture and experiencing the beauty in silence is imperative to the piece.

James Turrell Skyspace

7. Gulfton Story Trail

Designed by the Culture of Health –Advancing Together (CHAT) organization to bring the storied history of Gulfton alive, Gulfton Story Trail helps lift the spirits of its community and bring in visitors to experience their culture. Composed of 12 murals created by Houston artists, each mural is created from poetry written by Gulfton students. Use this self-guided trail map to immerse yourself in Gulfton.

8. Eclectic Menagerie Park

Long-time art lovers, the Rubenstein family has created their very own open-aired public museum on their 108-acre Houston pipe yard. The Rubenstein family owns the Texas Pipe & Supply Company, one of the largest line pipe distributors in the nation. The yard is located at 288 South and Bellfort Street, allowing visitors to participate in a drive-by museum experience. All the artworks are handpicked by the family and are mostly made from metals by local artists.

sculptures in Eclectic Menagerie Park

9. Heritage Lanterns

Best seen at night when they are glowing colorfully, Heritage Lanterns are made from stainless steel with unique patterns cut in their sides that resemble a Victorian Era style. Created by two Houston artists, Carter Ernst and Paul Kittleson, these sculptures are located downtown in Root Memorial Square Park across from the Toyota Center.

10. East End Downtown Murals

The East End District in Houston is full of colorful, impressive public artwork, mostly in the form of murals. Created by local artists, like GONZO247, to tell the history of the East End. You can find more than 50 murals around the district on walls and sidewalks. The East End District is located east of downtown within walking distance of the George R. Brown Convention Center. Be sure to visit the Houston is Inspired mural on Travis Street to capture the vibrant nature of our city.

GONZO247 mural in Houston

Public art helps bring its community together and allows people to find inspiration and meaning. Public art is not only accessible to all, but contributes greatly to the economy, culture, and aesthetics of its city. The city of Houston put together a map of the city’s art collection, that you can use to discover more public art spaces while exploring. Happy hunting!

About The Author

Charrie earned a Bachelor's in Studio Arts with a minor in Advertising from the University of Houston. She found her niche for office administration before graduating and enjoys helping people become successful. One of her favorite things to do in the office is to coordinate events and parties. When she is not at work, you can find Charrie playing roller derby with Yellow Rose Derby Girls, loving on her cats, painting, or creating ceramic vases.

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