The Smiles will Come at Smither Park.
Smither Park, located along I-45 a little south of downtown Houston, is the most colorful park I have ever visited. I knew it would be, since I had already seen pictures online, but it’s one of those places you have to experience yourself if you want the full sensory experience. I don’t think there’s a way to walk through this park without a big smile on your face.
To see everything, you need to start at one end and work your way around slowly. The concept for the design relied on the idea that all the materials used had to be recycled items, so you can imagine how many small details there are. For anyone with young children, this is a made to order “I spy with my little eye…..”
The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art began constructing the park in 2011 and it has been a work in progress ever since. If you arrive on a Saturday, you may have the good fortune of discovering one of the project’s many folk artists at work.
The Smither Park project has benefitted from the collaboration of many artists but the overall project designer is Huntsville artist Dan Phillips. He was contacted for the work by a friend of his, Stephanie Smither, who wanted to create a park in the memory of her husband, John Smither, a long time board member of the Orange Show Center. Memorials are usually somber places, given to remembering what was lost. This memorial remembers instead what was given, and it does so with an abundance of joy.
Although it may not have been planned that way, the fact that work at the park is still ongoing ends up being a huge positive. Visitors will be awed by everything that has already been completed, but will leave with the knowledge that they need to come back once a year to enjoy future additions.
The park features a small covered stage, picnic tables, a pavilion and several swings. There are also additional areas being developed.This park is small in size but filled with the promise of discovery.