Nestled in Houston’s Third Ward are six blocks chock full of art. Art you can touch, art built with slats and nails, art that people live in and live with. It’s work that takes the shape of a neighborhood. And though it’s the work of many people, including the residents who live there, this art is principally the vision of Rick Lowe, who was named one of the 2014 winners of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant this week.
Project Row Houses is of a piece with several trends in contemporary art practice today, yet it’s also a project that offers transitional housing for young single mothers. Since its founding in the early 1990s, the program—or artwork, or conceptual project—has grown from 22 houses along a block-and-a-half to more than 70 buildings spread around the neighborhood. ”Social sculpture” is the term Lowe uses to describe Project Row Houses. It’s as good as any. Project Row Houses defies easy categorization.