Toni Tipton Martin and Luanne Storall. Hearth House: A Period Room, 2011. Installation view of “Round 34: Matter of Food” at Project Row Houses, Houston. Courtesy Project Row Houses
Project Row Houses (PRH) was founded in 1993, in Houston’s Third Ward district, as a result of the vision of local African-American artists who wanted to have a positive, creative presence in their own community. Artist and community activist Rick Lowe spearheaded the pursuit of this vision when he discovered the abandoned, one-and-a-half block site of twenty-two shotgun-style houses in the Third Ward. PRH seeks to transform the view of art from traditional studio practice to a more conceptual base of changing the social environment. From the original twenty-two houses, there are now fifty-five buildings across ten blocks that house artist exhibition spaces, residency houses, studios, arts education facilities, affordable housing for forty households, a residential program for young single mothers, and a ballroom and performance space.
PRH has invented a context where art can create real social change. Intersecting public art and social practice, PRH locates the Third Ward community, a predominantly African-American working class neighborhood, as its canvas in which resident artists play a vital role in activating the community. Central to the vision of PRH is the social role of art as seen in neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, community service, and youth education.