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Friday, September 29, 2023


Kennedy leaves lasting legacy

UH alumnus and renowned art-car artist Tom Kennedy died at age 48 while body-surfing in San Francisco on April 12.’

‘Tom was a great example of what can become of a person who dreams of becoming something outside of what society tells them they should be, outside of the norms, outside of what is safe,’ said author and artist Rick McKinney, a friend of Kennedy.’

Kennedy earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing at UH in 1992 and spent the next two years studying sculpture at the UH School of Art.

‘Whenever I heard him talk about Houston and his studies there, it was always kind of related to building up this community there in Houston, including the art-car artists, his experience at the newspaper and then venturing out to create his own unique life with that background as a real formative educational force,’ said Brian Goggin, a friend and sculptor.

Goggin said the first time he met Kennedy was under a freeway overpass, where Kennedy asked him to light the blaster for one of his art cars, the ‘One-Eyed Wonder,’ which blasted a 50-foot flame.

‘We all turned orange and just jumped in the car and took off laughing hysterically,’ he said. ‘What a phenomenal way to meet somebody.’

Having started out at the loading dock of the Houston Chronicle, Kennedy rose to circulation sales manager, but gave that up in 1995 to pursue creative work through the medium of art cars.’

His works ranged from political statements like ‘The Bush-Cheney Cruise Missile’ and the ‘Topsy Turvy Bus,’ which emphasized misguided funds going to weapons instead of education, to ‘Ripper the Friendly Shark.”

‘This shark had gone beyond being a predator and was now this friend-maker, as he used to call it,’ said Goggin.

His works can be seen on his Web site,’

‘Now that he’s died, people are just coming out of the woodwork to celebrate his life. It’s proof of what a great success he was and what you can become and how much of a great impact one can have when one pursues one’s dream,’ McKinney said.

Another one of his greatest accomplishments was the founding of his Bicycles to Bosnia project, which involved taking dozens of bicycles to Bosnia, organizing a parade and bridging the gap between Croatian and Serbian children.

‘It’s appropriate to me that he came out of Texas ’cause he never did anything small,’ said McKinney, ‘He was never afraid to take risks.’

A self-proclaimed adventurer, Kennedy once said, ‘It seems the world is a little short of adventures right now. Too many people sitting behind a TV or like a computer screen. Someone’s got to be out on the street creating the content. That’s me,’ Valerie J. Nelson of the Los Angeles Times reported.’

In addition to memorial services in the San Francisco Bay Area and in his hometown of Portland, Ore., one is being planned for May 8 in Houston, appropriately around the time of the Houston Orange Show’s art-car festival and parade.

Tom is survived by his wife, Haideen, his mother, Pat, sister Margret and brothers Matt and Andy.

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