Art and Empowerment Define a Community Development Success Story in Houston

Decaying and disused buildings litter many American inner-city neighborhoods. In Houston, one imaginative project turns potential into pride and empowerment by creating unique, new uses for old homes.

Switchboard's Kaid Benfield reports on an innovative project in Houston, in which old and disused row homes in one inner-city neighborhood have been transformed into community art space, as well as transitional housing. "I first discovered PRH four years ago," writes Benfield, "though the project was established back in 1993, on the site of 22 abandoned shotgun houses (circa 1930) in Houston's Third Ward. (Shotgun houses are narrow one-story dwellings without halls.)"

Twelve of the forty propoerties have been renovated into artist exhibition and/or residency spaces, with revolving exhibits showcasing African-American art and literature. Another seven have been transformed into transition housing for women.

"Nothing has been worse for our environment in the last several decades than the decay and disinvestment of our inner cities and accompanying suburban sprawl," says Benfield. "Strengthening the places we have before building new ones is critical to environmental recovery, and in my opinion doing so is inherently green whether or not we are able to add explicitly green features."

Full Story: Community art or community development? Yes and yes, in Houston's inspiring Project Row Houses

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