Art Taking Asylum in East Downtown Coffin House

Collectors and artsy-crafty types will have to head to East Downtown for their muse-feeding materials when Texas Art Asylum, a 18-month-old venture in the First Ward’s art district (top), packs it all up and moves its various shop-classroom-warehouse operations from several sites to one consolidated locale at 1719 Live Oak St. (above and left). The new space, about 6,000 sq. ft., is the former home of pedicab vendor Space City Bike Cabs.


Popular with artists, prop-masters, collectors, and teachers in need of mass quantities of inexpensive cool stuff, Texas Art Asylum bills itself as a “creative reuse” repository of thrift-salvage-craft materials.  Inventory, and lots of it, has been categorized and not-so-chock-a-block placed on shelves . . . as well as every other available surface.

The 2,600-sq.-ft. obstacle course inside 1230 Houston Ave. opened in May 2011 but quickly reached its “display” capacity. The proprietors had also leased 2 separate 500-sq.-ft. storage units — and filled their garages, too. Meanwhile, their related nonprofit Texas Center for Recycled Art and its popular Teachers’ Warehouse project had space nearby at MECA. The upcoming move means a packing blitz after the Jan. 19 final day at its Deco building (at right), which was originally an auto dealership.

One of the owners says the new Live Oak St. digs was originally a coffin factory, “which we found out when we asked why there is a grieving angel medallion above the entrance [above, and at right]. This made it even more perfect for us.”

Photos: CALwords (1230 Houston Ave.); Neil Lokken (1719 Live Oak St.)

13 Comment

  • Hardly cool stuff. Unless you consider decapitated doll heads cool. They sell you junk like a mass collection of bottle caps. Just weird.

  • Texas Art Asylum is an awesome place, but clearly not for everyone. If you’re looking for “antiques-y” stuff like old ladies’ china, look elsewhere. :-)

  • The fascade of that building has some major settlement cracks.

  • LOVE the Texas Art Asylum! Was there just last weekend & came out with stocking stuffers for everybody for $25 total. A VW flipbook ad for the car enthusiast (50 cents), architectural drawing templates for the aspiring set designer, set of coordinating materials for the quilter, a dozen baby doll heads for pranking later (maybe we’ll leave them on the annoying neighbor’s porch Christmas morning), gift tins for packing Christmas goodies in, brand new felt Christmas ornaments for package decor, an entire roll of copper foil for ornament crafting…

    And – they take donations! So if you’re wondering what to do with Granny’s collection of plastic Mcdonald’s toys, look no further.
    So happy they are moving into a bigger space!

  • “So if you’re wondering what to do with Granny’s collection of plastic Mcdonald’s toys, look no further.”

    than Ebay, where that stuff is actually worth something!

  • One person’a “junk” is another’s art supplies! Great folks and great stuff. I’ve found vintage fabric I’ve used for one-of-a-kind aprons, decorative papers I’ve used in decoupage, and countless other things for a variety of artistic endeavors. Thank you, Texas Art Asylum!!!

  • I don’t think Susi quite “gets” what the Art Asylum is about. It’s not a retail store in the usual sense. It’s not a thrift store. It’s a supply store, an inspiration closet, for artists who make cool stuff out of that “uncool” stuff. I’ve seen awesome works of art created from decapitated dolls heads, as well as from massive amounts of plastic bottle caps. It’s most definitely for creative people. And some creative people don’t enjoy throwing out that “uncool” stuff when they see so much potential in it. I’m so happy that they exist!

  • I agree, Susi does not get it.

    This place also has classes, with amazing artists conducting them.

    You go in as a novice and after 2 or 3 hours, you come out with your very own work of ART.

    I too am happy they are moving to a larger (and hopefully less crowded) space.

  • Ditto Chris!
    Susi obviously does not get it!
    Which is all the better for the rest of us!
    Texas art asylum is a true treasure and I am very excited for the move and for them.

  • Texas Art Asylum has been the crown jewel in a town full of artists and art supply stores! Ramona and Jenifer are true matriarchs of the houston art scene. not only do they supply local artists with unique and affordable fodder for the projects and creations, they also do a ton of non profit work in the art community. most of it related to reuse and recycling of materials that would otherwise end up in a dump somewhere. but they also help youth organizations, supply teachers with mass supplies for their classes, and also teach children about the world around them by using art! dont discount this place as some fly by night thrift store for artists, just because you go in and they dont have just what you always want or needed sitting right in front of your face. it takes some digging, sometimes, but the charm and neccesity of a place like this goes way beyond the casual “FRAH-FRAH” artist that may stroll in and leave 5 minutes later, unimpressed. take time to think of your fellow artists and the rich legacy and impact that HOUSTON ARTISTS have on the rest of the world, and you may begin to realize just how important this little shop of wonders is! peace, love and remember to always…KEEP IT LOWBROW!

  • Susi not only does not ‘get it’, she was also quite mean spirited in her comment. Texas Art Asylum is a fabulous resource for artists and few cities have such a place. Susi may be more comfortable at Hobby Lobby. And Bill…’the foundaion has cracks’? Pu-leeze. Exactly how does that figure into an evaluation or review of the store? Teachers absolutely love the access to cheap art supplies for their underfunded classrooms. Every artist I know who has been there loves Texas Art Asylum. I LOVE Texas Art Asylum and cannot wait to see the new space. My friends love donating their ‘stuff’ to Texas Art Asylum. Wish I could be there to help move them to the new store! As far as selling McDonald’s plastic toys on eBay… good luck. After sales fees, postage, and mailing costs plus the very real irritation factor from cranky buyers you’ll be wishing you’d never heard of eBay (or Granny’s plastic toy collection). Long live Texas Art Asylum!

  • Why does HCAD show this property to be vacant land?

  • Oh, and the decapitated doll heads might be going to the next production of “Coram Boy”.