Heidelberg Project

3600 Heidelberg St Detroit

Public Art Tour of Detroit/Heidelberg Project
VAMONDE Detroit
Written By VAMONDE Detroit

Heidelberg Project

The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on Detroit's east side. It was created in 1986 by the artist Tyree Guyton, who was assisted by his wife, Karen, and grandfather Sam Mackey. The Heidelberg Project is in part a political protest, as Tyree Guyton's childhood neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots. Guyton described coming back to Heidelberg Street after serving in the Army; he was astonished to see that the surrounding neighborhood looked as if "a bomb went off".

At first, the project consisted of his painting a series of houses on Detroit's Heidelberg Street with bright dots of many colors and attaching salvaged items to the houses. It was a constantly evolving work that transformed a hard-core inner city neighborhood where people were afraid to walk, even in daytime, into one in which neighbors took pride and where visitors were many and welcomed. Despite the area being characterized by high levels of blight and poverty, the evolving art work grew. Tyree Guyton worked on the Heidelberg Project daily with the children on the block. He and director Jenenne Whitfield gave lectures and workshops on the project around the country. Their main goal was to develop the Heidelberg Project into the city's first indoor and outdoor museum, complete with an artists' colony, creative art center, community garden, amphitheater, and more. In 2005 the Heidelberg Project was awarded the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence silver medal.

Demolition and destruction

The city government of Detroit has demolished some of Guyton's projects. The first time was Guyton's "The Baby Dollhouse" in 1989. Then, at five in the morning on November 26, 1991, city bulldozers and police appeared at another one of his art pieces unannounced. They gave him fifteen minutes to retrieve items he wanted to save from destruction. Another demolition of the Heidelberg Project was ordered under Mayor Dennis Archer, on February 4, 1999 that demolished of the houses Guyton termed "Your World," "Happy Feet," and "The Canfield House".

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Starting in 2013, a number of houses in the Heidelberg Project have suffered fires. Arson is suspected in most of these cases. To date, there have not been any arrests. Even prior to 2013, arson was common in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood, as eight to ten houses were estimated to have burned down annually prior to 2006.

A Recognizable Project

The Heidelberg Project is recognized around the world as a demonstration of the power of creativity in creating hope and a bright vision for the future. Some of the houses that remain on Heidelberg Street include the "New White House (formerly Dotty Wotty)", "Number House" along with the Detroit Industrial Gallery, and artist studio/home that was purchased and maintained by Detroit artist Tim Burke.

The Heidelberg Project hopes to offer a new approach to the growing problems of urban sprawl and decay facing many American and other international "shrinking cities". This approach has garnered international attention, especially since the Heidelberg Project continues its maturation. The 20th Anniversary of the Heidelberg Project was celebrated on August 26, 2006, with a community festival, an event that ended a year of special attention. MTV producers filmed a segment for its show Made using the Heidelberg Project as a backdrop. Fashion model Kate Moss visited the Heidelberg Project with photographer Bruce Webber to photograph the City of Detroit for a special edition of W magazine in June 2006. In 2007, two books were published about the Heidelberg Project. A children's book was written by Linda McLean, and a coffee-table book, entitled Connecting the Dots: Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project was published by Wayne State University Press. In 2011, the Project released its first children's book, "Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art".

*Information provided by Wikipedia

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