Two eternal artists: Leonardo da Vinci and Barney Smith.
Two eternal artists: Leonardo da Vinci and Barney Smith.

Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum

Field review by the editors.

The Colony, Texas

The late Barney Smith (1921-2019) was a master plumber who spent over 50 years making toilet seat art -- a combination of found-object-assemblage and scrapbooking. He gave tours of his San Antonio garage-museum (You can read our visit report on the place) and made a lot of friends.

Toilet bowl columns flank the museum entrance.
Toilet bowl columns flank the museum entrance.

But none of those friends had room for over 1,400 toilet seats. And by late 2018 Barney knew that someone else would have to take over his life's work.

That's when Jason Boso gave him a call.

Jason was about to open the Truck Yard -- an open-air beer garden outside of Dallas -- and was looking for Texas art to lend pizzazz to the space. He read about Barney's museum, and wondered if the plumber would lend him a few toilet seats for an indoor display. "Barney told me, 'I'm so old I don't buy green bananas any more,'" Jason recalled. "He was worried about who was going to take care of his museum after he was gone. And I said, 'I'll buy it!'"

Cadillac Ranch tribute: 26 half-buried cars line the walkway into the Truck Yard.
Cadillac Ranch tribute: 26 half-buried cars line the walkway into the Truck Yard.

Barney, who'd fretted that his life's work would be broken up, was shocked and delighted.

The grand opening party for the Truck Yard's new Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum was on Memorial Day 2019, one week after Barney's 98th birthday. Barney was there, along with members of his large family. He cut the ribbon. "I walked him in, and he looked up and looked around, and I saw a tear coming down from his eye," said Jason. "And then I started crying, too!"

Toilet seat themes include surveying equipment and O.J. Simpson's glove.
Toilet seat themes include surveying equipment and O.J. Simpson's glove.

Satisfied that his museum had found a safe home, Barney passed away less than two months later, on July 23.

The vestibule to the new museum -- fronted by twin columns of toilet bowls -- shelters the Truck Yard's bathrooms. On the walls are a selection of Barney's media-tribute toilet seats (He was a popular TV guest) and a timeline of Barney's life. His official Toilet Seat Art Museum seat, which once hung outside his garage, now hangs in a place of honor over the entrance door to the exhibit room. A sign cautions visitors to "Be Nice" and to not touch the seats.

The main room displays most of them, topped by a lofty ceiling mural of two hands and a toilet paper roll inspired by The Creation of Adam fresco in the Sistine Chapel (perhaps The Creation of Toilet Paper?).

Several of Barney's seats have their own explanatory plaques, such as a Route 66 seat that includes a chunk of the Mother Road, and a Black Bear seat with claws from a bear that Barney killed (in defense) when he lived in Tennessee. "The seats with the plaques were the ones that he liked the most," said Jason.

Snakes, ballet, skulls, Space Shuttle Challenger, Texas barbed wire.
Snakes, ballet, skulls, Space Shuttle Challenger, Texas barbed wire.

If you spend an hour looking at Barney's toilet seats, you'll know almost everything about Barney. He didn't get to 1,400 seats by being narrow-minded. There are tribute seats to Afghanistan, Randy Travis, Stockdale Junior High School, cosmetic dentistry, Barney's 60th wedding anniversary trip to Branson, Missouri (he and his wife saw comedian Yakov Smirnoff), faucet handles, Star Wars, sign language, CB radio, totem poles, tree surgery. "Carbon Monoxide is Deadly," the life cycle of the butterfly, Texas barbed wire, "Crime Does Not Pay," Vietnam vets, bingo, Barbie and Ken, Indian rock art, hobo code signs, the 1990 Miss America pageant, braille, checkers, the U.N.'s "Operation Restore Hope," Pennsylvania Dutch hex symbols, coffee, Zippo lighters, the sport of fencing, the 75th anniversary of the Roller Derby, "The Making of a Business Card," O.J. Simpson's infamous glove, and "1995 Eastern Europe Panorama."

A fraction of Barney's 1,400 seats.
A fraction of Barney's 1,400 seats.

The Space Shuttle Challenger seat is embellished with a chunk of the doomed spacecraft. The Mt. Saint Helens seat is coated with ash that erupted from the mountain in 1980. The CIA toilet seat communicates in a secret code; the ice tongs seat features a pair donated by Barney's brother, who once worked in an ice house. The Million Dollar Seat -- a Barney favorite -- is glued with $1 million in shredded U.S. currency. He once told us, "Most people don't have a million dollars on their toilet seat."

Jason said that his favorite seat was the one that Jackie Kennedy might have sat on, while visitors seem to enjoy the Saddam Hussein toilet seat. "It has a piece of Saddam's toilet," said Jason. "A military person from San Antonio knew Barney, grabbed part of the toilet [from the dictator's palace], and smuggled it back for Barney's museum."

Barney Smith (1921-2019) at his garage museum in 2015.
Barney Smith (1921-2019) at his garage museum in 2015.

Jason said that some of his peers think that he's nuts to link the Truck Yard to toilet seats, but he doesn't mind.

"To be honest, at first this was all a business decision," he said. "I thought, 'This will probably bring a lot of eyeballs to our business.'" And then Jason had a change of heart. "What kind of happened to me was after I saw Barney and his family so happy to see that his life's work was going to live on beyond him... well, now it really feels good to me. It makes me feel good."

By design, the museum -- a well-conceived tribute to Barney Smith and his art -- is conveniently in the same building as the Truck Yard's restrooms, guaranteeing that both art fans and beer fans will see it.

Also see: Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum: 1992-2018

Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum

Truck Yard

Address:
5959 Grove Lane, The Colony, TX
Directions:
Truck Yard. From Main St. in The Colony, drive east on S. Colony Blvd for one mile. At the stoplight turn right onto Paige Rd. Drive two miles (Paige Rd becomes Plano Pkwy as it crosses under the tollway) and then turn left at the stoplight onto Destination Drive. Drive a third of mile and turn right onto Grove Lane. Drive to the end; you'll see the Truck Yard on the left. The Toilet Seat Museum is in the main building, on the second floor.
Hours:
Daily 11am - 2am, except during special events. (Call to verify)
Phone:
469-401-6764
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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November 21, 2019

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