From Destruction to Thought Provoking Art - The Heidelberg Project
How One Man Saved a Community
The Heidelberg Project is a two block radius of installation art. It was created in 1986 by Tyree Guyton, along with neighborhood children in response to the deterioration of Detroit neighborhoods. The project is named after Heidelberg Street. The original thought behind it, was to take something sad and destructive and turn it into something inspirational. In a neighborhood where parents were afraid to let their children walk alone, Guyton wanted to create something that encouraged people to walk through the neighborhood, to feel safe through the haven of art. Through the use of bright colors and fun patterns, Guyton was able to salvage his once deteriorating neighborhood into something that all would want to see. Some of the more well known houses or in other words 'works of art' have titles such as "Noah's Ark" , "Dotty Wotty", and "Faces in the Hood". It is meant to bring about an awareness to the community, that things shouldn't necessarily be shunned just because they dont fit into the standard definition of beautiful. The Heidelberg Project started off with only a couple houses, and soon turned into several blocks of salvaged architectural art. It has become a symbol of hope, a symbol of what could be.
Detroit was once a city booming with industry, known for its american made cars. With economic recessions in the 1960's and 1970's, and The Detroit Riots of 1967, the city never quite recovered. Many attempts have been made to revitalize this once plentiful city, but nothing has quite stuck. In those attempts to revitalize, the city has tried to shut down The Heidelberg Project but has never succeeded. The Detroit Arts community has rallied around The Heidelberg Project committing to keep it alive. There are also many people who believe that the Heidelberg Project is an insult to the community, making a mockery of the deteriorated neighborhoods. In 1999, the City of Detroit was able to demolish about half of the art project, stating that it was an "eye-sore". Since then, the international art community has come together to make sure this is a local historic landmark and has been added to many "To See" lists about Detroit. The Heidelberg Project has been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines, and has even been featured on The Oprah Show and The Today Show.
Art isn't always meant to be pretty, art can be thought provoking and a political statement. The Heidelberg Project is in fact thought provoking, taking a destroyed neighborhood and turning it into something different and emotionally moving, an artists colony for all to enjoy.
Two books have been written about The Heidelberg Project. Magic Trash by Jane Shapiro is a children's book explaining the beautiful transformation of this once decayed neighborhood. The Heidelberg Project: A Street of Dreams is a coffee table style book more oriented towards adults, telling a poetic story through the use of images.