The University of Houston’s new College of the Arts soon will become the city’s first higher education institution devoted solely to cultivating leaders in visual and performing arts, as well as arts administration. The local creative community will no doubt benefit from the college as it trains student artists and delivers exhibitions and performances to the public.
Joining its faculty this fall will be visual artist and social activist Rick Lowe. Lowe, a 2014 MacArthur Fellow, is the first faculty member to be hired by the University’s newest college. Lowe will serve as clinical associate professor of art in the School of Art and will assist in developing a minor focused on socially engaged art and a College of the Arts-Third Ward Fellows program.
“We are thrilled to have this prestigious artist join our faculty,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH System senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “With his addition to the faculty for the newly-formed College of the Arts, the University of Houston furthers its ties to the Houston arts community and strengthens its mission to provide the artists of tomorrow with core faculty who are leaders in their field. Rick Lowe’s social activism has transformed the city of Houston, and I hope that he has the same effect on our University.”
Houstonians and art aficionados around the globe are familiar with Lowe’s work with Project Row Houses. Located just blocks from UH, this collection of 22 shotgun-style houses offers emerging artists and community members a venue for developing and showcasing new works. It also hosts a number of programs aimed at promoting social and cultural engagement. Lowe founded Project Row Houses in 1993 and has helped launch similar community-based creative spaces in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Dallas.
Lowe describes his own artwork as “social sculpture,” as it addresses themes related to society and community. He previously has collaborated with UH’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and the Center for Arts Leadership. Prior to accepting a faculty position at UH, Lowe taught at Southern Methodist University and Stanford University.
“Civic and social engagement through the arts are two of the highest priorities in the new College of the Arts at the University of Houston,” said Andrew Davis, interim dean of the College of the Arts and director of the Moores School of Music. “To be able to bring the experience and expertise of Rick Lowe, a proven innovator in these areas, to the college will jumpstart our initiatives to engage the campus with the community and the University with the city.”
The UH System Board of Regents unanimously approved the creation of the College of the Arts in February. The college unites UH’s Moores School of Music, School of Theatre & Dance, School of Art, Blaffer Art Museum, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and Center for Arts Leadership.
“I'm excited about the thought of Rick Lowe joining the School of Art,” said Michael Ray Charles, Roy and Lillie Franz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Painting. “This is a significant addition to our faculty. Rick has made an unparalleled contribution to the world of art, and to the lives of Houstonians for years to come. His presence will only strengthen the University Houston’s efforts to educate our students and community.”
Lowe’s involvement reflects the college’s vision of a center of higher learning led by artists for artists. Likewise, his community involvement complements a number of College of the Arts initiatives that already impact the Third Ward and other areas of Houston. These include the School of Art’s “Animating History Project” showcasing Third Ward history, the School of Theatre & Dance’s annual Houston Shakespeare Festival delivering free performances the community, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts’ CounterCurrent Festival offering free performances and exhibitions throughout the city, and the Moores School of Music’s Texas Music Festival providing classical music on campus and in the Houston area.