Project Row Houses

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Project Row Houses

Project Row Houses is a development in the Third Ward area of Houston, Texas. Project Row Houses includes a group of shotgun houses restored in the 1990s.[1] Eight houses serve as studios for visiting artists.[2] Those houses are art studios for art related to African-American themes. A row behind the art studio houses houses single mothers.[1]


Rick Lowe, a native of Alabama and 2014 MacArthur "genius" grant winner, founded Project Row Houses.[3] In 1990, according to Lowe, a group of high school students approached Lowe and asked him to create solutions to problems instead of creating works that tell the community about issues it is already aware of.[2] Lowe and a coalition of artists purchased a group of 22 shotgun houses across two blocks that were built in 1930 and, by the 1990s, were in poor condition.[2] Lisa Gray of the Houston Chronicle said that the houses, originally used as rentals, were "previously ruled by drugs and prostitutes."[4][5]

Inspired by the work of John T. Biggers,[6] the group used seed money funds from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts to restore the houses.[2] Corporate sponsor Chevron renovated the outside of several shotgun houses. The director of the Menil Foundation allowed Monday to be a day off of work for the employees so that they could help renovate the shotgun houses. Volunteers numbering in the hundreds fortified porches, removed trash and used needles from lots, and hanged wallboards. Several individuals and families from the area and one local church "adopted" individual houses. Garnet Coleman adopted one house.[2] The houses first opened in 1994.[4]

Deborah Grotfeldt created the concept of the Young Mothers Residential Program, which began operations in 1996; Grotfeldt had worked with Lowe since the Project Row Houses project started. The program gives single mothers one year of housing to allow them to finish their education and organize themselves. Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times said "It has been as successful as the artist residency program."[2]

As of 2009 the Project Row Houses campus now has 40 properties. As of that year, some houses have art exhibitions and some houses provide housing space for resident artists. Newer low income housing blocks, using designs provided by the Rice Building Workshop, are now a part of the campus. The program for young mothers uses seven shotgun houses. A playground is adjacent to those houses. In addition several shotgun houses built in the Victorian era, which had been moved from other areas of the city that previously housed historically black communities before being replaced with newer development, are a part of the campus. The Eldorado Ballroom and the Bert Long sculpture "Field of Vision" are a part of the campus. Lisa Gray of the Houston Chronicle said during that year "Driving around, this writer found it's hard to tell where the Row Houses campus begins and ends."[4]


In 2006, the Houston City Council gave Project Row Houses a grant of $975,000.[7][8]



Children living in the houses attend schools in the Houston Independent School District. Zoned schools include Blackshear Elementary School, Cullen Middle School, and Yates High School.[10] Students were previously zoned to Ryan Middle School before 2013.[11]


  1. ^ a b Davis, Rod (3 August 2003). "Houston's really good idea Bus tour celebrates communities that forged a city". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 14 March 2016. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kimmelman, Michael (17 December 2006). "In Houston, Art Is Where the Home Is". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Spector, Nicole Audrey (25 September 2014). "Rick Lowe: Heart of the City". Guernica. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c Gray, Lisa (27 September 2009). "Project Row Houses endeavor branches into laundromats". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  5. ^ Greenberg, Mike (6 August 1995). "Project ROW Houses - Neighborhood blight becomes neighborhood hope in Houston's Third Ward". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  6. ^ Gaines, Sallie (31 March 1996). "Shotgun Houses Gave Artist A Prime Target". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "A bigger canvas: Project Row Houses receives almost $1 million to continue its visionary mission". Houston Chronicle. 20 December 2006. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  8. ^ Johnson, Patricia C. (19 November 2006). "Administrator admits stealing from Project Row Houses". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  9. ^ Farbstein, Jay; Wener, Richard; Axelrod, Emily (1998). Visions of Urban Excellence: 1997 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (PDF). Cambridge, MA: Bruner Foundation. ISBN 978-1-890-28602-6. OCLC 608115343. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Campus Attendance Zone Maps". Houston Independent School District (HISD). Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  11. ^ Mellon, Ericka. "HISD will close Ryan, tables plan to merge two high schools." Houston Independent School District. March 7, 2013. Retrieved on March 14, 2013.

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Coordinates: 29°43′55″N 95°21′55″W / 29.7320°N 95.3652°W / 29.7320; -95.3652