A Museum of Art in the Most Unusual Form

Published in the La Vernia News on November 13, 2014

Art in the most unusual form...

Toilet Seat Art Museum Intrigues, Mystifies

Everyday Journeys

   Harry and Linda Kaye Perez

    Barney Smith was born in 1921, married the love of his life when he was 18 and sometime in his 40s began what would turn into his life-long passion - creating toilet seat art. He got the idea from his dad who mounted hunting trophies on wooden plaques. A toilet seat cover was about the same size and shape, so he thought, “Why not?” 

One Happy Man

    THE MAN BEHIND THE ART started working in the garage that is now his museum, and has never stopped. 

       Barney and his wife, a nurse by profession, were married for 74 years; she passed away eight months ago. Barney once was quoted as saying, "My wife asked 'Have you lost your marbles?'  Barney replied: “No, I've got 'em on a toilet seat!”

     Television appearances are old hat to Barney. He has been interviewed by Barbara Walters on The View, appeared on the Montel Williams Show and was also a guest on the Texas Country Reporter Show. He has an old VHS tape of these appearances that is almost required watching for guests before he starts his personal tour of the museum.

Mickey & Pez

Always Inspired

      Barney has never had to worry about ideas or raw materials for his designs; the designs just pop into his head and the memorabilia comes from things he has collected and organized in boxes in the back of the museum, or is given to him by folks who had visited the museum. Among the more interesting items is a piece of insulation from the space shuttle Challenger, customized license plates, and even a porcelain flushing device from Saddam Hussein’s commode, given to him by a former Navy commander who had visited Hussein’s underground bunker in 2004.

The Challenger Seat

The Museum

      As of our visit, there are a total of 1,150 uniquely crafted toilet seat covers displayed in the museum and each one has a story. The amazing thing is that Barney remembers in detail each and every one of them, even the number that he has engraved on one side. Some are commemorative toilet seats recognizing events such as the space shuttle program, the landing on the moon, and the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. There are seats for the NFL Super Bowls, Spurs Basketball, universities, famous people, and even Pez has several seats dedicated to these little candies. There are seats for festivals such as Mardi Gras and Fiesta, civil organizations, and interesting places Barney and his wife visited. One side of each cover is fully decorated, most with art by Barney and memorabilia and the other side is documentation about the theme.

     There is one that Barney proclaims was one of his first and remains his favorite. He handed Harry a printed page and began to tell us about a young boy who had to memorized the poem, When the Earth’s Last Picture is Painted by Rudyard Kipling. At first I thought he was telling us the story of the art, but looking at the paper he had given us, we realized he was actually reciting the rather lengthy poem and he didn’t miss a word of it. Barney then told us that the young boy was him.

Barney at his desk

     He doesn’t charge anything to visit the museum, doesn’t have a donation jar, and he never sells any of his art. By now you are wondering, “What’s the catch?” Well, there isn’t one. How refreshing! Barney simply loves what he does and he enjoys giving visitors personal tours of his life-long passion. He loves to visit with his guests so don’t be in a hurry. Allow at least one hour; it could be the best hour you will ever spend. Oh, he does accept new toilet seat covers, just in case you have one lying around.

Arrange a Visit

      Be sure to call Barney before your planned visit to let him know you are coming. He will ask you to call again about 20 minutes before your arrival. This will give him time to go from his house to the museum (if he is not already there), open the doors, and get ready for you. His garage museum is located in a residential neighborhood and can be easily found via GPS.

The View Seat

   The ironic part of this story is that Barney and his father before him were Master Plumbers. Barney is now in his nineties, moves a little slower, and has trouble with his legs. But, like the Eveready Bunny - he just keeps going, doing what he loves - making crazy, quirky art and talking to people. He loves to talk!

Where to find it:

Toilet Seat Art Museum

239 Abiso Ave

San Antonio, TX 78209

(210) 824-7791

Come see for your self-surely you will find a favorite 

The oldes seat at the museum

 The oldest seat in the house-it's even older then Barney


Harry admiring documentation



   © Harry Perez 2012