Orange Show neighbors voice concern over planned ‘Smokesax’ installation at Brays Bayou Greenway – Houston Chronicle
A group of Southeast Houston residents troubled by the possible placement of a 70-foot-tall sculpture known as “Smokesax” near their homes voiced their resistance Thursday to city officials and the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, arguing that having the sculpture in a residential area could lead to high traffic, parking issues and unwelcome noise.
Made up of a Volkswagen Beetle, car parts, oil field pipes and other found materials, Smokesax has been sitting in pieces in storage while the center raises money to reinstall it at the Brays Bayou Greenway trailhead in Fonde Park, about two blocks from the Orange Show.
The plan, however, has raised the ire of some residents who say the art center and the City of Houston did not properly communicate their intentions to the neighborhood, and past events at the Orange Show have been noisy nuisances that made it difficult to park near their homes. They also expressed concern that the installation of Smokesax would amount to the Orange Show “appropriating” Fonde Park.
District I Council Member Robert Gallegos argued that Thursday’s meeting — of which residents were given a week’s notice — was organized for the purpose of soliciting community input, and firmly rejected the notion that the park would be turned over to the Orange Show.
“Fonde Park is a city park and will always remain a city park,” Gallegos said, noting that the proposed installation still had to receive the proper permits before it was approved by the city.
Tommy Ralph Pace, the Orange Show’s executive director, attempted to assuage parking concerns by promising visitors would be directed to a 394-spot parking lot built as part of the Orange Show’s eight-acre expansion announced last fall.
He also pushed back on some residents’ requests that the sculpture be placed in another neighborhood, such as the Museum District.
“That is the exact definition of our mission: celebrating the arts for everyone and creating an equitable landscape where amazing public art can do what it does, which is create placemaking and community,” Pace said.
“We feel this neighborhood, this zip code and the East End of Houston, deserve one of the first pieces of public art to be installed along Brays Bayou because the Museum District already has enough,” Pace said.
Many residents, however, did not seem convinced and felt like the Smokesax was being pushed upon them without their consent.
“From what I can see, the Orange Show is already raising money and its seems like a done deal,” said Karina Blest, president of the Fonde Civic Club. “We feel very ignored by both the city (and the Orange Show) because you’ve known about this issue way prior than we were informed about.”