Founder, Project Row Houses
Political activist and installation artist Rick Lowe left his native Alabama for Houston in 1985. In the time since, the painter-turned-volunteer has helped shape the city's Northern Third Ward thanks to his vision and creativity.
Growing up on a sharecropping farm in the rural south, Lowe was raised amidst inequality, poverty and racism-social aspects that inspire works like his Project Row Houses. Founded in 1993, the nonprofit project initially centered around the revitalization of nearly two-dozen shotgun-style houses, but has since grown to 40 structures, which serve as a community arts center of sorts within the mostly African-American neighborhood.
Today, Lowe continues his work with PRH and helps collaborate on similar ‘art-as-neighborhood-redevelopment' projects throughout the United States.
Birthplace...Born and raised in Alabama.
Why I'm in Houston...Houston's a good place to be an artist. Things are fairly inexpensive. Lots of space. Lot's of freedom to do stuff.
Houston and Project Row Houses...I started Project Row Houses in 1993-ish. The city completely embraced it. [Could I have done this in another city with the same response?] Absolutely not. It's not very likely that you can have a fairly young artist with a completely new idea and have every major arts institution involved in the beginning.
Houston's art scene...It's grown. And I think that growth may have allowed for different pockets of the arts community to exist. When I arrived in the '80s, it felt like there was just one. It was just one community, and now there's several [communities] which is normal and typical as it grows.
Where I take out of town guests...Project Row houses, the Station Museum, tool them around to some of my artist friends' spaces such as Jim Pirtle's Notsuoh in Downtown.
Favorite restaurants...I love dim sum. I found one just recently, Kim Son in Chinatown. They do dim sum on Saturdays and Sundays.
Favorite place to experience Houston...I would probably say the Station Museum. It has an interesting mix, in the sense that the quality of the exhibitions are museum quality, installed within the guidelines of museumology, but on the other hand, it's an alternative space, so the shows don't feel fussy. They don't feel vetted in a way that a museum would. It has a certain kind of freshness about it that I really like.
Houston's hidden gem...I think Houston is full of little gems. For many people, Project Row Houses is one of those. A lot of people don't know about it and happen upon it. But I also think there a lot of these temples that are dispersed around the city. For me, because I know a lot of people in the creative communities, I get to find them and a lot of them are just individuals. My friend Nestor is building this incredible space in his backyard, and that's obviously not something everyone will get to see. But there are gems all over.
How the Houston art scene stacks up against other cities...I think Houston is very different. It's a completely different arts community. It's not like New York. It's not like LA. It's not like Chicago. It has a completely different energy. One of the reasons I have stayed and like it here is because there's a lot of freedom. Things are possible here. You can do things here that are significant locally, but because of the scale you're able to do, you can have national impact. Whereas if you're doing something in New York, well... so what? And in LA, it's just much harder.