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Houston artist to share savvy with Warehouse backers

Citizen Staff Writer



An artist lauded for reviving a rundown Houston street as Project Row Houses will share his insights Sunday with Tucsonans looking to transform the rundown Warehouse Arts District.

The Arts District is along Toole Avenue between Congress and Sixth streets.

Rick Lowe will give a free artspace development presentation at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave.

Lowe founded Project Row Houses in 1993 by claiming a one-and-a-half-block stretch of Holman Street, about two miles from the center of Houston in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. What started with 22 shotgun-style, long and narrow houses has grown to about 60 structures on five blocks.

The New York Times reported, “this stretch of Holman Street may be the most impressive and visionary public art project in the country.”

Lowe said 16 years ago he was in a similar position as the one facing Tucson’s Warehouse Arts Management Organization, which is trying to acquire 24 artist-occupied warehouses from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“People didn’t understand the value of what we had,” Lowe said. “The city didn’t support it. We had no financial resources. A group of artists decided to explore and experiment in a very informal way. We convinced the owner to give us a lease-purchase arrangement.”

Project Row Houses may be arts driven, but Lowe stresses no more than six of the roughly 40 homes are occupied by artists. The project offers a young mothers residential program and three houses have been set aside for artist studio space.

“We worked really hard to avoid being an artist development,” Low said. “Having (artists) live right next to somebody on welfare working minimum wage jobs, that stabilized the neighborhood. Real estate people are now fighting to get their way into this neighborhood.”

Lowe has exhibited his art around the world – including at the Phoenix Art Museum – and has spoken widely about community development. He comes to Tucson without familiarity with the arts scene here, but he said his message is universal.

“I think generally communities (are) stuck in terms of looking at new ways of doing things,” Lowe said. “There are certain patterns and ways things are done and people get stuck. My basic message, I always tell people, is they should look at what resources are available. Artists are great resources. They should try to identify artist resources and institutional resources and weave them together.”

Lowe’s talk is sponsored by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Tucson Pima Arts Council.

If you go

What: Artspace Development Presentation Artist Talk: Rick Lowe

When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave.

Cost: Free

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