Keynote Speakers Announced

AAAE Newsroom


We are pleased to welcome the following keynote speakers to this year’s conference in Houston:


   Lauren Anderson, Houston Ballet

Lauren Anderson was the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer at the Houston Ballet. After a luminous dancing career, Anderson turned her focus to teaching and community engagement. On the opening eve of our conference, Lauren will provide a grand Houston welcome and speak on how her artistic practice has informed her approach as an educator and community mobilizer. 

Native Houstonian Lauren Anderson danced with Houston Ballet from 1983 to 2006, performing leading roles in all the great classical ballets, appearing across the world to critical acclaim, and in the process, becoming one of Houston Ballet’s most beloved stars. She joined Houston Ballet in 1983 as a Corps de Ballet, was promoted to Soloist in 1987 and in 1990 became the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer at Houston Ballet – and one of the few African-American ballerinas at the head of a major ballet company anywhere in the world. In January 2007, Ms. Anderson assumed her latest role in Houston Ballet’s education department where she conducts master classes at area schools, and lectures to students on dance and her historic career as one of America’s most distinguished African-American ballerinas. She also teaches Master classes across the globe. Lauren’s dance shoes are on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

   Perryn Leech, Managing Director, Houston Grand Opera

Perryn Leech will share the inspiring and dynamic story of the Resilience Theatre, the alternative performance space that the Houston Grand Opera devised in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Following Perryn’s address, members of the Houston arts community will reflect on the ingenuity, heart, and tenacity that has been displayed in response to Harvey’s devastation.

Perryn Leech was born in Brighton, England, and joined HGO as technical and production director in the 2006–07 season. He became chief operating officer in August 2010, and in May 2011 was appointed the company’s managing director, overseeing all aspects of the company’s operations—including finding and realizing new venues in the event of flooding! He joined Houston Grand Opera after five years at Welsh National Opera (WNO) as technical director, and four years as the production manager at English National Opera. He had an extensive freelance career that included serving as the head of lighting at the Edinburgh International Festival, one of the largest and most prestigious arts festivals in the world. In 2016, he was appointed by Mayor Sylvester Turner to serve on his Quality of Life Transition Committee. He is chairman of the board for Theater District Houston and serves as a board member of Houston Grand Opera, Central Houston, and Opera America. In addition, he is a board member and treasurer of the Houston Arts Combined Endowment Foundation and board member and secretary of the Wortham Center Operating Company. He is married to author Caroline Leech and is proud father to three children, Jemma, Kirsty, and Rory.

   Rick Lowe, Founder, Project Row Houses 

Project Row Houses occupies a significant footprint in Houston’s Historic Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest African-American neighborhoods. The site encompasses five city blocks and houses 39 structures that serve as home base to a variety of community enriching initiatives, art programs, and neighborhood development activities.   Founder Rick Lowe and PRH’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Tamika Evans will close our conference with a conversation about how the Project Row Houses model for art and social engagement applies not only to Houston, but also to diverse communities around the world.

Rick Lowe is a Houston-based artist who has exhibited and worked with communities nationally and internationally. In 1993, he founded Project Row Houses, an arts and cultural community located in a historically significant and culturally charged neighborhood in Houston, Texas. His work has appeared in: Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York; Phoenix Art Museum; Kwangju Biennale, Kwangju, Korea; the Kumamoto State Museum, Kumamoto, Japan; the Venice Architecture Biennale; and Documenta 14, Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece. Additional community projects include the Watts House Project in Los Angeles, the Borough Project in Charleston, SC (with Suzanne Lacy and Mary Jane Jacobs), the Delray Beach Cultural Loop in Florida, and the Anyang Public Art Program 2010 in Anyang, Korea. Among Rick’s honors are the Rudy Bruner Awards in Urban Excellence, the AIA Keystone Award, the Heinz Award in the arts and humanities, the Skowhegan Governor’s Award, the Skandalaris Award for Art/Architecture, and a U.S. Artists Booth Fellowship. He has served as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, a Mel King Fellow at MIT, an Auburn University Breedan Scholar, and a Stanford University Haas Center Distinguished Visitor. President Barack Obama appointed Rick to the National Council on the Arts in 2013; in 2014 he was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2016 he joined the University of Houston as an associate professor of art.

   Tamika Evans, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Project Row Houses

The necessity of celebration, equity, and creativity motivate Tamika Evans while working alongside artists, writers, community organizations, philanthropists, community leaders, and neighbors as a community development practitioner for the past 14 years. Evans was raised in a civically engaged home in the Great Plains region of North America and in the city that was also the birthplace of Malcolm X. Tamika moved to Houston, Texas in 2000 hoping for connection and clarity of her purpose. She values genuine collaboration with visual and performing artists, has volunteered with an international youth leadership development organization, and other community organizations based in Houston’s Third Ward focused on the arts, spirituality and equity. This January, she joined Project Row Houses as the Director of Strategic Partnerships in Houston’s historic Third Ward. This is an opportunity to synergize existing and desired partnerships between the arts, community enrichment, and neighborhood development. Gratefully, her collaborative leadership is supported by her husband and her three vibrant children. Her family is fortunate to understand the importance of a home and community that nourishes the heart, hands, and mind in this dynamic world. She also enjoys reading, crochet, nature, and grapefruit.