Rick Lowe, founder of Project Row Houses, a neighborhood-based nonprofit art and cultural organization in Houston’s northern Third Ward, addressed Texas A&M students Feb. 20 as part of the Department of Architecture's Spring 2010 Lecture Series.
Project Row House helps create a sense of community through the creation and celebration of public art, African American history and culture. It's spinoff corporation provides low-income rental housing by designing and building low-income housing units.
At an early age, the Houston-based artist became interested in learning what he could do to improve residents’ quality of life in low-income communities. He began, he said, by creating paintings and sculptures dealing with political and social issues.
But a high school student on a tour of his studio told Lowe that his work just reflected what was going on in the community.
“We don’t need to be told what the issues are. We know what the issues are,” as Lowe recounted the student’s words. “Why can’t you create a solution to the problem?”
Lowe called the moment a turning point. Influenced by German artist Joseph Beuys, whose concept of art included all human action, Lowe began to think of Houston’s Third Ward as a canva and founded Project Row Houses
The project's programs, which encompass arts and culture, neighborhood revitalization, low-income housing, education, historic preservation, and community service, operate on the principle that art—and the community it creates— can be the foundation for revitalizing depressed inner-city neighborhoods.