Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
After researching so many arts nonprofits, I think I’ve read the phrase ‘transforming communities’ in at least twenty different mission statements. Artist and recent MacArthur genius grant recipient Richard Lowe is putting these words into action in a very direct way through his work in Texas.
In this interview from Hyperallergic, Lowe talks about his projects within Vickery Meadow, an ‘impoverished enclave for immigrants and refugees in Dallas.’ This community was recently in the news when Thomas Duncan, who contracted Ebola in Libera, stayed an apartment there.
Lowe wanted to create works that would empower the community members and encourage interaction and exchange between them and outsiders. Last year, Lowe installed three boxy mini-galleries (that bring to mind London’s White Cube) within the community. Every week, these spaces become arts bazaars where locals gather and sell their work.
Another initiative of Lowe’s also involves providing a creative space to communities. Lowe was one of the founders of Project Row House in Houston, an initiative developed in 1993 that intersects “art, historic preservation, affordable and innovative housing, community relations and development, neighborhood revitalization, and human empowerment”. The project has a Young Mothers Residency program, arts education programs, and space for artists and exhibitions.
In the interview, Lowe recounts an early involvement in activism and art when he attended a rally in Houston protesting police brutality. He describes the rally as being at a ‘low point’, and offers to create an installation to reinvigorate the issues at stake. The other activists then had the idea to hold a press conference in the installation itself, which probably changed the environment and tone of the press conference greatly.
I guess I’m thinking a lot about space, and how community space can be used both for activism and art. The author calls Lowe’s box galleries “a populist spin on elite art galleries’, which are usually neutral spaces that provide a neutral setting for the art displayed there. Lowe’s galleries directly involve the space itself- the art, community, space, and artists are all connected and their intersecting relationships all come into play. I’d really like to learn more about Lowe’s work and other artists who do similar work as well as looking more at the administrative side of things, and how all of his different projects and organizations intersect.
I hope you guys enjoy this interview! I thought it was really interesting and pretty inspiring. I wanted to end with a question and answer from the article that I really enjoyed: the author asked Lowe about the story he told her regarding how he began creating the socially engaged and political work he currently pursues. Apparently, a high school student touring his studio challenged him to use his creativity to actually create a solution to the problems he was addressing. The author then asked Lowe if he thinks that more artists should work to bring about real change.
Lowe answers that not all artists should, but all artists can. And he makes a great point that creativity is inherent to all kinds of problem solving, which as artists and arts managers, we can definitely identify with:
“…in order to address the issues we face, it takes a lot of creativity combined with empathy, compassion, and passion. And I think that if you lay out all those things, artist have a tendency to focus on those things. The creative side is only one side of it. There are creative people in the sciences, technology, business, but the connection to humanity, to the poetics of life — that gives artists a leg up on being able to address those issues. I think it’s a natural place for artists to be.”
and this has nothing to do with the article, but I enjoy searching for Simpsons jpegs every week: