Basket Books & Art is an indie bookstore and art gallery that caters to the nexus between literature and art.

Nestled in the former location of Picture Plus Design and Framing Studio in Montrose at 115 Hyde Park Blvd., Houston, the bookstore is surrounded by art installations affixed to the building’s exterior.

One piece is “Big Alex,” a work by Houston artist David Adickes that is an 1,800-pound sculpture of an old telephone with Alexander Graham Bell’s face carved into it, on the building’s roof. Sculptures by late artist George Sugarman also flank the shop’s entrances.

Owners Laura Hughes and Edwin Smalling embody this convergence of forms through their respective experiences before they started Basket Books & Art last May. Previously, Hughes worked in literature, and Smalling was a painter, they said.

The couple said they wanted to create a space where they could work together, raise their 3-year-old, and create a hub for artists and literary-inclined people to exchange ideas.

The shop’s name is another nod to their goal of serving both the literary and artistic communities in Houston: Basket was the name of a poodle who belonged to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who were American writers, art collectors and members of the avant garde movement.

“We are really prioritizing the unusual, kind of what you might not encounter in mainstream media, small presses, literature and translation, the sort of presses that have a very directed and small, very focused output, and make beautiful books that are of exceptional, high-quality writing,” Hughes said.

Aside from Basket’s ground-level bookstore, it also boasts a gallery space on its second floor and features artists’ work inside the bookstore. They do not represent artists like some galleries do; they just showcase the work, they said.

“The goal, ultimately, is to make a space where we can bring together work that perhaps has no other specific home, make interesting and idiosyncratic shows of work that might be, you know, challenging in some way or another, that might not easily be classifiable,” Smalling said.

In addition to art exhibitions, Basket has hosted poetry readings and launched its first film screening in March. Hughes and Smalling said they are working on potential plans to celebrate the shop’s one-year anniversary in May.

“We don’t have a solid plan for a year yet, but we will certainly have some kind of celebration,” Smalling said.


Basket Books & Art owners Laura Hughes and Edwin Smalling enjoy reading. They both gravitate toward books of what Hughes describes as “hybrid” genre, blending myriad genres into one cohesive piece.

What they are reading:

“The Hundreds” by Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart:

“The hundreds” refers to the word limit of each passage. The book is about “contemporary life, what it means to live in this world now, reflecting on society and its transformations,” Hughes said.

The book club:

The shop has a book club consisting of 10 active members. The last featured book was “Testo Junkie” by Paul B. Preciado, and the next book the group will read is “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue” by Samuel R. Delany.

Basket Books & Art

115 Hyde Park Blvd., Houston


Hours: Tue.-Sat. noon-6 p.m., closed Sun.-Mon.