A few months ago, Andrew Garrison saw my post about Project Row House and sent me a copy of the documentary he directed called Third Ward TX. This is a project that is so genius and moving to me; I’ve been following its progress for years. If you’d like to catch up, you really need to screen this film. I’ve dreaded and thus procrastinated writing this review for months because I know that words can’t do it justice. The last time I was moved to tears by a project or an exhibit was Gee’s Bend Quilts. It doesn’t happen often to this old cynic!
In 1993, Rick Lowe founded Project Row House. He was struck by how much the dilapidated shotgun shacks in the city of Houston reminded him of John Biggers’ paintings. He calls the shotgun shack “a humble abode and a temple.” As Lowe and a group of artists renovated the homes, they created a community where artists-in-residence would come stay and exhibit. Thus, the artists engaged the community and brought attention to a place that had been abandoned by many. Once a neighborhood with a small town feel, the area had fallen on hard times.
The first major result of PRH was eight exhibition houses housing two different artist per year, with exhibitions and exhibitions in progress showing for six months a year. The doors are open for people to walk through. Exhibits range from portraits to this 2001 Walter Hood installation:
After reaching this success, Lowe realized it was only the tip of the iceberg in helping the community. Thus, The Young Mothers in Residency Program was born. Single mothers were able to live in housing that is part of the project, and they are aided by mentor moms. They live rent free for two years while completing educations. These families become part of a thriving community. The amount of dignity this effort brings to people seems too powerful to describe. Read the rest of this entry »