Alabama native, MacArthur Fellow named Breeden Scholar in Residence at Auburn University

Published: January 15, 2015
Updated: June 02, 2015
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AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Artist and 2014 MacArthur Fellow Rick Lowe returns to his native Alabama this January as the Auburn University College of Liberal Arts' spring 2015 Breeden Scholar in Residence. With formal training in the visual arts, Lowe has worked for the past 20 years both inside and outside art-world institutions by participating in exhibitions and developing community-based art projects.

Lowe will give a public talk Thursday, Jan. 22, at 5 p.m. on "Social and Community Engaged Art: The Genuine and the Artificial" in the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art followed by a reception. Galleries will remain open until 8 p.m. The Museum Café will be open and Cullars Improvisational Rotation will provide live jazz. RSVPs online are encouraged.

The program is sponsored by the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Department of Art and Art History, both in the College of Liberal Arts, and the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art.

Lowe, now a resident of Houston, shifted the focus of his artistic practice in the early 1990s to pursue what he refers to as "social sculpture" to more directly address the social, economic and cultural needs of his community. Lowe organized a coalition of fellow artists to purchase and restore 22 shotgun houses built in the 1930s in Houston's Third Ward, one of the city's oldest African-American neighborhoods. The mission of Project Row Houses is to be the catalyst for transforming community through the celebration of art and African-American history and culture.  Central to the vision of Project Row Houses is the social role of art as seen in neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, community service and youth education.

"Students discussed the sustained and positive impact of Project Row Houses in class last semester," said art professor Barb Bondy. "As a result, students enrolled in the community-based art class Rick Lowe will teach at Auburn University this spring. The students will work with Lowe and art professor Wendy DesChene to develop a local community project."

Lowe was born in Eufaula into a family of sharecroppers. He studied art at Columbus College and Texas Southern University, and his work has been exhibited at such national and international venues as Houston's Contemporary Arts Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, and the Venice Architecture Biennale. He has served as artist-in-residence and visiting artist faculty at Amherst College, Goddard College, Vermont College, Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm, Sweden, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a recipient of the Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change and the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities.

Lowe was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2014. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted $625,000 fellowships, sometimes referred to as "genius grants," to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.

The Breeden Eminent Scholar Chair was established in 1989 to provide support for both the academic and the outreach missions of the College of Liberal Arts. The chair is supported by an endowment from Dr. Daniel F. Breeden. Persons named to the Breeden Eminent Chair are nationally recognized in their field with outstanding credentials in arts or humanities. They must also demonstrate potential and willingness to engage in outreach activities in the community. The Breeden Chair is expected to contribute a unique quality to the teaching and learning objectives of the College of Liberal Arts, such as Rick Lowe's arts-driven community building projects.

"Rick has excellent connections throughout the state of Alabama, both as a native of the state as well as through his outreach work experiences," said Giovanna Summerfield, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts and associate dean for Educational Affairs. "These experiences, as well as a recognized commitment to outreach in the arts and humanities, made him the best candidate for joint service in the Art Department and the Center for the Arts and Humanities for spring 2015."

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