Sugar Land students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Colony Meadows Elementary School will get a chance to help design one of the cars that will wind its way through the upcoming 32nd Annual Houston Art Car Parade.
Local author Cathey Nickell will present her original children’s book, Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car, during an all-day school visit from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday April 12, at Colony Meadows, 4510 Sweetwater Blvd.
After each grade-by-grade presentation, children will go outside and see a real art car. Chalkstang, a Mustang that Vena Ashley turned into a chalkboard on wheels, will be parked outside the school all day, and the students will get a hands-on chance to use their own creativity. The art car is interactive—meaning, children can draw on it with chalk. With each child signing their name to the car, and a white tiger theme (the mascot for Colony Meadows), Chalkstang is sure to become parade-worthy just in time for the April 13 event. Ashley said her favorite part about her car is getting to watch how excited the kids are when they get to draw on a Mustang.
Ashley is a Houston artist who does interior decorative faux painting, murals, photographic mixed media and even welds. She created Chalkstang after Hurricane Harvey. Prior to the storm, Ashley had a wreck in her 2007 Mustang and did not have full insurance coverage. Forced to do the car repairs herself to save money, she found old car parts in salvage yards and set to work. With some creativity, paint, screws, duct tape —and help from her grandfather who taught her to weld—she turned her old car into the new-and-improved Chalkstang.
Nickell travels around Houston and beyond to speak to elementary school students about how she got the idea for her book (hint: her car sports 16 bumper stickers and counting), how they can come up with their own story ideas, the writing and publishing process, and, of course art cars. Nickell does not drive an art car herself, but the concept for Arthur Zarr came to her one morning during rush hour while driving her then-teenage son to school.
“I keep the back of my SUV covered with various bumper stickers,” Nickell said. “I joked with my son, Will, that I need to be a polite driver and obey the laws of the road because my car is so incredibly recognizable. He laughed at me, insisting that no one ever notices me and certainly not my car. During the drive, Will’s comment got me pondering what else—besides bumper stickers—might make a car memorable? That question triggered me to think about art cars, and by the time I finished my morning carpool, the concept for Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car was born.”
Nickell will launch her second children’s book this summer: Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn is loosely based on the yarn-bombing craze that readers may (or may not) have heard of. It is being illustrated by Emily Calimlim, a watercolor artist who lives in The Woodlands.