September 7th, 2010

The Heidelberg Project, Detroit

When I was in Detroit earlier this summer we visited the Heidelberg Project. I had been wanting to see this for a good while now and it did not disappoint. Basically it's a residential block of abandoned homes (on Heidelberg Street) that has been turned into a huge art piece. Using the homes and found (abandoned) objects it speaks of the downfall of Detroit, of abandonment by the government and by God, of the alcohol and drug problems that riddle the city, but also of hope for the future. The project turns something ugly and unwanted into something beautiful and meaningful. It's pretty amazing.

"The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project in Detroit, Michigan. It was created in 1986 by artist Tyree Guyton and his grandfather Sam Mackey ("Grandpa Sam") as an outdoor art environment in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on the city's east side, just north of the city's historically African-American Black Bottom area. The Heidelberg Project is, in part, a political protest, as Tyree Guyton's childhood neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots. Following his stint in the Army, Tyree Guyton described coming back to Heidelberg Street. 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." (Thanks Wikipedia!)

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