We are pleased to welcome the following keynote and featured speakers to this year’s event:


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. 

Lauren squareLauren Anderson
Houston Ballet
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 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 squarePerryn Leech
Managing Director
Houston Grand Opera

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.


Featured Speakers

avatar.jpg.320x320pxShannon Buggs
Chief Commons Director, Creative Houston

Shannon Buggs is the Chief Commons Director for CultureWorks Greater Houston, a management commons for arts, cultural and creative nonprofits. Her professional experience includes working as a Houston Chronicle business reporter and columnist, covering the airlines industry, banking and financial services companies, and the nonprofit sector. She also worked as a communication and public relations director for the University of Houston and The Woman’s Hospital of Texas. Shannon’s civic leadership includes serving as a mayoral appointee on the Houston Arts Alliance board of directors, as a trustee and alumni association president of Episcopal High School in Bellaire, and as a board member of Writers in the Schools and Girls, Inc. In 2007, Shannon launched Meta-Four Houston, a youth development nonprofit promoting poetry, literacy and teen leadership. In 2012, she successfully merged Meta-Four into a larger literary arts nonprofit. Shannon is the mother of a teenage daughter who wants to be a dancer and a tween-age son who wants to be an author.


MarciDallas_HeadshotMarci Dallas
Executive Director, FreshArts

Marci Dallas is Executive Director for Fresh Arts, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening the sustainability and vibrancy of Houston’s arts sector by bolstering the capacity and professional practice of artists and arts organizations and enhancing the public’s engagement with the arts.  She has a strong background in arts leadership and financial management. Marci holds an MA in Art History and an MBA. She is a graduate of Christie’s Art and Business program as well as the Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives at Rice University’s Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.  She has previously held administrative, curatorial and development roles in organizations such as The Museum of Modern Art (New York) and Holocaust Museum Houston. She is an active community volunteer, having served on committees for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, United Way, and the American Alliance of Museums. Marci serves as Adjunct Professor in the MA in Arts Leadership Program at University of Houston where she teaches Career Development for Individual Artists.

Ten Eyck Swackhamer
General Manager, Alley Theatre



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 squareRick Lowe
Founder, Project Row Houses

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.

Evans thumbTamika 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.

swSixto Wagan
Director, Center for Art and Social Engagement at the University of Houston.

Sixto Wagan is the inaugural director for the Center for Art and Social Engagement (CASE) at the University of Houston. Prior to this role, he led the contemporary art center DiverseWorks, serving a multitude of capacities including Artistic Director, Co-Executive Director and Performing Arts Curator. During his tenure, he nurtured artists, communities and emerging arts organizations through commissions and place-based initiatives.