Rick Lowe speaks at the third World Summit on Arts and Culture. Photo courtesy of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies.
Artist and community activist Rick Lowe is the founder of Project Row Houses (PRH), a neighborhood-based nonprofit arts and cultural organization in Houston's Northern Third Ward, one of the city's oldest African-American communities. PRH began in 1993 as a result of discussions among African-American artists who wanted to establish a positive, creative presence in their own community, using art as a foundation for revitalizing a depressed inner-city neighborhood. Lowe spearheaded the pursuit of this vision when he discovered an abandoned block-and-half of 22 shotgun-style houses in Houston's Third Ward, which presented the opportunity to pursue a new form of art. Over two decades, PRH's campus has grown from the original site to six blocks and from 22 houses to 40 properties, including 12 artist exhibition and/or residency spaces, seven houses for young mothers, artist residencies, office spaces, a community gallery, a park, and low-income residential and commercial spaces. Project Row Houses' programs and events encompass arts and culture, neighborhood revitalization, low-income housing, education, historic preservation and community service.
Lowe visited The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in September 2011 to talk with recent Pew Fellows about his work with PRH. He is also currently working with Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) on a Center-funded, community-driven revitalization project on Pearl Street, an under-used alley behind AAI's building in Philadelphia's Chinatown North neighborhood. Over the course of two years, Lowe will work with residents in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood to re-imagine how the alley can be transformed into a place where locals of varying backgrounds spend time together.