MacArthur Genius Fellow Rick Lowe to discuss art and social engagement in underserved communities

MacArthur Fellow and Houston-based artist Rick Lowe will be in Eugene to offer a talk on “Art and The Social Context” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 2, in Lawrence Hall 177 (1190 Franklin Boulevard, Eugene). This event is the first A&AA interdisciplinary lecture, which highlights the intellectual overlaps between A&AA disciplines. The event is free and open to the public.

Rick LoweLowe’s work on social justice, including his Project Row Houses, a community-based arts-development project, earned him one of the 2014 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, the so-called “Genius Grants.”

His talk at UO will focus on the social engagement model that Lowe uses in Project Row Houses. Lowe, originally trained as a painter, addresses cultural needs through his artistic practice, which began in the early 1990s.

“I am excited to hear him talk about his work directly as it enlightens and expands our notions of what’s possible in the realms of art and design,” says Jessica Swanson, a career instructor in the Department of Art. “To hear firsthand about the concept and process of his groundbreaking work will be a rare treat.”

Swanson is program coordinator of a proposed A&AA interdisciplinary design major, called “Design Create Change,” which will be piloted through four new courses next year. Swanson believes Lowe’s approach to design — a combination of art, landscape architecture, architecture, and social justice — will inspire students, educators, and practitioners alike.

Prior to Lowe’s presentation, a reception at 6 p.m. sponsored by Design Create Change encourages those interested in the proposed interdisciplinary major to learn more.

“Lowe works broadly to create work that addresses the needs of the community, of families, and young moms,” says Swanson. “He has expanded the boundary of our disciplines and I am excited to hear his perspectives.”

In 1993, Lowe and fellow artists purchased and restored a block-and-a-half of properties in Houston’s Third Ward, a low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhood, and turned the region into Project Row Houses, a cultural hub that offers artistic venues and a community support center.

ArtNews magazine reports that since its founding, Project Row Houses has grown from twenty-two houses to more than seventy buildings around the neighborhood.

The program has revived the once-devastated neighborhood into a vibrant artistic community with arts education programs for youth, spaces for gallery exhibitions, and studio residencies for aspiring and established artists.

The MacArthur Foundation website states that Lowe has spurred similar arts-driven redevelopment projects, including the Watts House Project in Los Angeles, a post-Katrina rejuvenation effort in New Orleans, and a community market in an immigrant neighborhood in North Dallas.

Property in Houston’s Third Ward
Above: In 1993, Lowe and fellow artists purchased and restored a block-and-a-half of properties in Houston’s Third Ward, a low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhood, and turned the region into Project Row Houses, a cultural hub that offers artistic venues and a community support center. The project earned him a 2014 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. Image courtesy of Project Row Houses, Houston.

Lowe’s work has been exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Museum and Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, and the Venice Architecture Bienniale.

He has also contributed to other community building projects for the Seattle Public Library; the Borough Project for the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina; and the Delray Beach Cultural Loop in Florida.

“Rick Lowe is an inspiring choice by the departments of art, architecture, and landscape architecture,” says A&AA Associate Dean Roxi Thoren. “His art practice integrates the questions and the methods of those three disciplines. His work centers on social justice, which is a deep ethic and recurring inquiry in many of our departments and programs in A&AA. And works like Project Row Houses provide places for creative practice, art education, and community building, which describes both A&AA itself and the places we strive to help develop in the world.”

Visiting instructor Leslie Ryan of the Department of Landscape Architecture recommended Lowe as lecturer.

This inaugural A&AA Interdisciplinary Lecture is sponsored by the School of Architecture and Allied Arts and the Departments of Architecture, Art, and Landscape Architecture.

 

April 13, 2016