The Heidelberg Project, Detroit, MI



United States

The Heidelberg Project

Three miles northeast of downtown in a residential neighborhood that suffered extensive damage in the 1967 Detroit Riots, this outdoor art installation by Tyree Guyton was established in 1986. Guyton, who was raised in the Heidelberg Street neighborhood and had witnessed firsthand the effect of drugs, violence, and poverty on his community, initiated the project by transforming vacant lots and abandoned houses into large scale art installations. Assembled into thematic groupings, commonplace objects such as shoes, clocks, and bicycles were affixed to houses, cars, and trees. The themed houses, named for the character of their installations, became popular elements of the project. For example, the Soul House was covered in old vinyl records in homage to music history and the Party Animal House was ornamented with abandoned stuffed animals. Guyton also painted colorful shapes, numbers, and letters on sidewalks, streets, and other surfaces.

Using art to beautify the neighborhood and instill a sense of pride and community, the Heidelberg Project was officially incorporated into a community organization in 1988 to provide resources for art, education, and development. City officials, initially opposed to the project, demolished several of the houses in 1991. In 2013 and 2014, several other installations were destroyed by arson, leaving only two at the core of the project.

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