Rick Lowe

Photo: Jim Harrison

Rick Lowe

Arts & Humanities
8th Heinz Awards - 2002

Dudley Cocke and Rick Lowe share the 8th Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities category for providing a voice and a sense of pride and place for people who have not seen themselves reflected in the mainstream of American cultural institutions.

From the beginning of his career, Rick Lowe has been committed to merging art with activism. That was why he founded Project Row Houses, a program that bought 22 “shotgun” houses in the middle of one of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods, and renovated them into art galleries, workshop spaces, offices and housing for young single mothers where they can receive life skills training in child care, money management and home care.

The practical design of these houses was rooted in African architecture passed along through the slave trade; where others saw a slum in need of clearance and ready only for the wrecking ball, Mr. Lowe saw a challenge to preserve and celebrate a place that had a meaningful history. His goal was to create a world-class art project in a low-income neighborhood where such art is rarely seen and experienced. After much creative maneuvering, Mr. Lowe was able to purchase the houses in 1993. Today, Project Row Houses is a well-established public art program that the NEA considers to be a model for similar projects in other cities across the country.

Mr. Lowe’s work has been included in national and international exhibitions and programs. This year he is a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard University School of Design, and he is currently working as the chief arts planner with Rem Koolhaas, architect of the new Seattle Public Library.

Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.

Stories can be told in many ways, not just in traditional art forms like songs or murals. Art projects tease out a higher value beyond a practical function through somehow telling the story in a way that lingers.”

— Rick Lowe


Rick Lowe, Heinz Awardee speech, 2002 Heinz Awards presentation, Folger Theatre