Bossier library visitors will likely do a double-take when they see a car completely painted with brightly colored ribbon stripes parked in front of various Bossier Parish Library branches over a two-day period.
Houston author Cathey Graham Nickell—a native of Shreveport—will present her award-winning children’s picture book, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car,” at five different branches of the Bossier libraries. A special art car—called Ribbons and owned by Paul McRae of Houston—will be on site for each visit. Children are invited to participate in an interactive project at each branch in which they can tape googly eyes and fish fins to McRae’s art car as part of the library’s summer theme, “Oceans of Possibilities.”
The visit schedule is as follows:
BENTON BRANCH: 10 am, Tuesday, June 21 – 115 Courthouse Dr, Benton, LA 71006
AULDS BRANCH: 12 pm, Tuesday, June 21 – 3950 Wayne Ave, Bossier City, LA 71112
EAST 80 BRANCH: 4 pm, Tuesday, June 21 – 1050 Bellevue Rd, Haughton, LA 71037
HAUGHTON BRANCH: 11 am, Wednesday, June 22 – 116 W McKinley Ave, Haughton, LA 71037
PLAIN DEALING BRANCH: 2 pm, Wednesday, June 22 – 208 E Mary Lee Ave, Plain Dealing, LA 71064.
Each community event is free and open to the public.
Art cars, which are plentiful in Houston (but not so much in Bossier!), were the inspiration for Nickell’s first story. Nickell’s second picture book, “Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn,” also shares a playful outside-the-box message about outsider art—which she explains is “the kind of folk art that you cannot hang on a wall.” A new and little-heard-of craze called “yarn bombing” inspired her second children’s book.
RIBBONS is the name of McRae’s whimsical art car, and it was inspired by the abstract art form of drip and pour painting. The design also represents the ribbon of a typewriter, because his father and grandfather were both accomplished typists; his grandfather owned McRae Typewriter Exchange and repaired the machines for most of his life. McRae’s art car also reminds him of the “ribbon of highway” that Woody Guthrie wrote and sang about in “This Land Is Your Land.” And finally, the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” was another source of ribbony inspiration. Underneath all that colorful paint is a gray 2014 Toyota Yaris. McRae explains that—like Arthur Zarr, the main character in Nickell’s book—he has acquired a whole new group of friends in Houston and beyond, all thanks to his wacky art car.
Wondering what an art car is? An art car is a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art cars are often driven and owned by their creators, who are sometimes referred to as “cartists.” Most art car artists are ordinary people with no artistic training. They’re largely self-taught and self-funded, though some mainstream trained artists have also worked in the art car medium. Most agree that creating and driving an art car daily is its own reward. And if, like McRae, the art car is the owner’s primary or only vehicle, they are what’s called a “daily driver.”Nickell’s story is a little bit different because she doesn’t even own a decorated vehicle—at least, not yet. A few years ago, while driving through Houston traffic, she was zapped with the creative idea to write a book for children about art cars. In 2016, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car” became a reality. Today, Nickell presents her books in front of school children throughout Houston, Louisiana, and beyond, having done more than 100 author visits to date. Through her author presentations, she spreads an artsy message about writing, publishing, creativity, and inspiration. Nickell holds a journalism degree from Baylor University and a Master of Arts from LSU-Shreveport.