Mark “Scrapdaddy” Bradford, a Houston-based artist, has opened a new nonprofit art space, called The Mark Bradford Project, in the Independence Heights neighborhood.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mr. Bradford moved to Houston at the age of eight, when his father Glenn Bradford took a job with an architecture firm in the city. A mostly self-taught artist, Mr. Bradford attended Houston Community College (HCC) for four years where he learned to weld, however, he dates his passion for building and creating back to his youth. Mr. Bradford’s great-grandfather was an inventor, and as a young child, Mr. Bradford was fascinated by a steel plant in Mansfield, Louisiana. After moving to Houston, he also was intrigued by the metal roller coasters at AstroWorld.
After graduating from high school, Mr. Bradford worked as a bike courier and decided to learn the craft of welding so he could fulfill his dream of working creatively with metal. During his time at HCC, Mr. Bradford got involved with Houston’s Art Car Parade. Over the decades, his large, intricate, kinetic, metal creations have become a staple of the event. Beyond local fame, his work has been featured throughout North and South America, as well as Europe. His creations have appeared on several television shows, including Battle Bots, Junkyard Wars, and Guinness Primetime Live. Additionally, Mr. Bradford hosted two shows for the History Channel’s Scrapyard Scavengers.
Mr. Bradford told Glasstire, “Scrapdaddy has evolved. It was a place of ego. It came about when we were doing this TV show Junkyard Wars in London and we [Shawn Ham and Ken Crimmins] were the Texas Scrap Daddies, but now I want to be more of an advocate for recycling and repurposing and working with what you’ve got.”
Though he values the success he has found, these days Mr. Bradford’s goal is to share his skills to inspire and motivate others. For a number of years, he has led tours of his studio and workshops for educators, teaching them how to work with metal when welding is not an option. It is this passion that has led him to transport his work to a more permanent location and launch a nonprofit organization.
David Miller, who was a fraternity brother of Mr. Bradford’s father, has partnered with Mr. Bradford in creating the organization. The two have a history: nearly 30 years ago, Mr. Bradford taught Mr. Miller to weld. Last summer, Mr. Bradford moved into a small house on Mr. Miller’s property, and together the two have added metal scales to the structure, which they call The Owl House. Inspired by the Beer Can House and The Orange Show Visionary Center for the Arts, the two have purchased a smaller lot directly behind Mr. Miller’s original property, which consists of an array of work spaces and Mr. Miller’s sculptures, as a home for Mr. Bradford’s sculpture collection.
While The Owl House and other sculptures can be seen at the entrance of the original property at 512 W. Donovan Street, the entrance to The Mark Bradford Project is at the other end of the lot on Marcella Street. The lot had long been an open area where people would dump dirt, so Mr. Bradford has used this excess soil to create mounds throughout the space. Additionally, he has salvaged plants that had been thrown out by a landscaping business to beautify the lot. It has taken over a year for Mr. Bradford to transport all of his work to the new space, but now the property is home to over one hundred sculptures by Mr. Bradford; it is the largest collection of Scrapdaddy sculptures.
The Mark Bradford Project is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 12 pm to 5 pm. To schedule a tour, email Mr. Bradford at [email protected].
Scrapdaddy is the best. For 20 years now we’ve loved his sculpture in front of our home. Way to go Mark with your new sculpture park!
Looking forward to visiting Mark’s amazing yard. We’ll see you soon Scrapdaddy!
Sounds great! Can’t wait to check it all out!! Congrats!
Loved meeting Mark Bradford in 2013 and shooting this story on his work for Houston Public Media’s Arts InSight series. Hope some of these great works are at this new location!
YouTube – https://youtu.be/EmjaFegoOhs
Great Art Car Parade footage by Erik Kolflat!