Rick Lowe is known in Dallas as the artist behind the Vickery Meadow project. He helped develop art galleries and markets in the immigrant neighborhood near Park Lane and Greenville Avenue. Now the world knows Lowe as a winner of a MacArthur fellowship – the so-called ‘genius’ grant. KERA’s Jerome Weeks spoke with Lowe, who’s in Houston.
Rick Lowe has been a nominator for the MacArthur Foundation. He’s suggested candidates for the $625,000 award. It’s presented to artists, scientists, anyone whose work shows exceptional creativity and merit. But Lowe hadn’t expected to be on the other end of the process.
“Yes,” he says, it’s not everyday “you wake up and answer a call and have somebody telling you that they’re giving you the top award in the field.”
Lowe gained national attention in the early ‘90s for his Project Row Houses. He helped Houston’s impoverished Third Ward transform dilapidated shotgun houses into a campus of artists’ studios and homes for single mothers. Lowe brings together art and social programs with the neighbors themselves in revitalizing an area. He calls this “social sculpture.”
“We try to look at sculpture as something on a community level. And so my goal as an artist is to help supply creativity within the community context, to shift it and design it in ways that have higher artistic and community value.”
In Dallas, Lowe was commissioned last year by the Nasher Sculpture Center as part of Nasher Xchange, the center’s 10th anniversary celebration of public art. Lowe helped residents of Vickery Meadow develop art galleries, workshops and markets. He continues to return to Dallas as the Nasher’s first artist-in-residence and as a teacher at SMU.
And no, he’s not figured out yet what he’ll do with the money.
“Hopefully,” he says, “it’ll be something where I could generate some security for myself but also something that will help advance my practice as an artist.”
The other Texan among the 21 MacArthur Fellows was Austin housing advocate John Henneberger.
Here’s the Nasher’s full release:
Nasher Sculpture Center Artist-in-Residence Rick Lowe Named 2014 MacArthur Fellow
DALLAS, Texas (September 17, 2014) – The Nasher Sculpture Center is pleased to recognize that our artist-in-residence, Rick Lowe, has been named a 2014 class of MacArthur fellows by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Lowe is one of 21 diverse individuals recognized for his accomplishments and future potential, and will receive a stipend of $625,000 to further his work. The fellowship is considered one of the highest honors in the creative field.
“We are delighted that the MacArthur Foundation has recognized Nasher artist-in-residence Rick Lowe for his extraordinary achievements with projects like Nasher XChange and Project Row Houses that are designed to foster social change through art,” said Jeremy Strick, Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center. “His work in Dallas in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood continues as a transformative site of social and cultural interaction, helping change our relationship to this vibrant area of the city. The McArthur Fellowship will allow Lowe to further his artistic efforts toward bridging the gaps between art and everyday life in urban areas.” said Director Jeremy Strick.
Rick Lowe has served as the Nasher’s Artist-in-Residence since February 2014 to support the continued growth of his project, Trans.lation, which he initiated for the Nasher’s 10th anniversary, city-wide exhibition, Nasher XChange. Featuring a series of workshops, White Cube gallery spaces, and Pop-up Markets in one of the most culturally diverse sections of Dallas, Vickery Meadow, Trans.lation, has enabled neighborhood residents to share their artistic talents and cultural traditions with each other and the greater Dallas community.
Lowe is widely respected for one of the most successful community art projects in the world, Project Row Houses, located in Houston’s Third Ward neighborhood. There, Lowe and his team saved a series of shotgun houses from being demolished and transformed them into galleries, classrooms, studios for artist residencies, and community gathering spaces. Instead of allowing the history of an area to be erased, he created a place that nurtures a sense of togetherness and exchange.
In addition to Project Row Houses, Lowe has worked as a guest artist on a range of projects, including the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library; Small Business/Big Change in Anyang, South Korea, the Borough Project for the Spoleto Festival 2003 in Charleston, S.C.; and the Delray Beach Cultural Loop in Florida. His art has been exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, N.Y.; the Gwangji Biennale in Korea; the Kumamoto State Museum in Japan; and Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum and Museum of Fine Arts.
The MacArthur Fellows work in diverse fields and across multiple disciplines, and are selected through a rigorous process by the non-profit organization. This year’s Fellows also include John Henneberger, Mary L. Bonauto, Sarah Deer, Jonathan Rapping, Jacob Lurie, Joshua Oppenheimer, Alison Bechdel, Ai-jen Poo, Samuel D. Hunter, Steve Coleman, Terrance Hayes, Yitang Zhang, Danielle Bassett, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Tami Bond, Mark Hersam, Craig Gentry, Khaled Mattawa, Pamela O. Long and Tara Zahra. For more information, please visit www.macfound.org/programs/fellows