THIRD WARD TX is the story of how Project Row Houses uses the tools of design, art and architecture to transform two blocks of “shotgun” houses familiar across the South into exhibition space, classrooms, gardens, and residential space. Their success in reducing crime, and making their “campus” a magnet for art enthusiasts, families, and local residents, also attracts deep-pocket real estate developers.
Their bold response is to include community planning and new housing as a part of their art practice. If they can shape an area in Third Ward for the residents, there’s a chance they can keep the neighborhood intact.
Project Row Houses, still going strong after more than 20 years, is a remarkable art project that revitalized a neighborhood, resists gentrification, and empowers the community while challenging ideas of art "behind the velvet rope." Creative director and MacArthur "Genius Award" winner, Rick Lowe, and six other local artists in inner-city Houston begin by boarding up abandoned houses and creating a “drive-by” exhibition. They eventually use an NEA fellowship to buy two city blocks of houses and refurbish the grounds and the buildings to provide houses for single mothers in college, create after-school programs, and make exhibition and work space for artists and public areas for the neighborhood that helps to revive their historically African-American community in Third Ward. But their own success lures deep-pocket developers and might hasten gentrification. Their response is startling--start building housing