A student told Lowe that what was needed wasn’t more political art and if he was creative, why couldn’t he create a solution to the injustice that was bugging him? That prompted Lowe to shift gears and start making art that creates and facilitates social change. And so he did it. And that art has been going on for over 20 years now as one continuous piece.
It started with the purchase of 22 shotgun houses he bought with fellow artists in a predominantly African American part of Houston. They refurbished, renovated and decorated them and created Project Row Houses, an organization that runs cultural and art events as well as outreach and support activities. The group also has the Young Mother’s Residential Program, that gives housing, parenting skills and personal growth development to young, single mothers.
The art is in the participation: the interaction of the artist’s creation with the community. To think about Project Row Houses as art might seem odd. Isn’t it an organization? What makes it art? Preeminent artist and thinker Joseph Beuys describes the idea of ‘social sculpture’, a more drastic version of conceptual art, where the art itself effects the environment and transforms it. Project Row Houses is an embodiment of that thought. It’s essence, as an organization gives way to its constant ability to change and grow which allows it to have transformative effects on Houston’s northern Third Ward. In 2014, Lowe was awarded the MacArthur Foundation”Genius Grant”. In his interview he remarked, “I think that’s one of the contributions that the arts and artists bring is the toolsets of listening and having heightened sense of perception about the aesthetics and the possibilities of things and imagination. I think bringing that into the community was something that was very valuable…”