Every city has artistic treasures. Some are easily found such as the famous museums, famous landmarks, famous art installments. However, some of the treasures take a bit of seeking and perhaps seeking in urban neighborhoods not well known to a visitor; the visitor may be from another city, a suburb or another country. The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, Michigan is one of those treasures.
Tyree Guyton was one of the original recyclers before upcycling became a trend and necessity. He built his open air art with materials abandoned in the neighborhood. Now known throughout the world for its’ innovation it nonetheless has been a challenge filled journey over the past 30 years as the Project has evolved into what is now an internationally acclaimed project and tourist attraction.
How The Heidelberg Project Began
The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, Michigan is one of the artistic treasures worth locating not only due for the art but for the social conscience it has represented and currently represents in the city of Detroit. Tyree Guyton began the Heidelberg Project in 1986. Heidelberg is a street on the east side of Detroit in the neighborhood Mr. Guyton was raised in the Mcdougall Hunt area.
Guyton began the project, along with his grandfather “Grandpa Sam” and mentor when he returned to the neighborhood after military service. He described the neighborhood as if a bomb had blown the neighborhood apart; the deterioration began after the 1967 riots.
The Heidelberg Project evolved into a project in which he used polka dots and salvage items to decorate vacant homes and abandoned lots along with the children of the neighborhood in hopes of revitalizing the area. What began as a family project evolved into a two block area, open air urban art environment in an effort to heal communities through art.
Community development, art and education for children remain the focus of the project headquartered at The House That Makes Sense (HTMS). The Boots On The Ground program has been initiated to preserve the legacy of the project due to a series of arson fires during 2013 and 2014 that destroyed some of the homes. The Heidelberg Project is not contained exclusively within the homes as the project as a whole is open air projects throughout the area.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation designated The Heidelberg Project a Landslide 2014 winner. The Landslide project features land based art which is threatened due to vandalism, neglect, demolition. Eleven cities had exhibits in the 2014 Landslide which hopes to bring attention to the threatened landscapes.
Arson has taken a heavy toll on the Heidelberg Project in recent years. Only four houses remain but the Project continues to evolve. Tyree Guyton has announced the remaining houses will be taking a new direction known as Heidelberg 3.0 and will remain an open air art community for education and arts and community involvement. The existing homes are all made with recycled, upcycled and abandoned materials infused with a theme of social consciousness.
Obstruction Of Justice
Image credit: Nic Redhead creative commons Flickr
Children’s Picture Book: Magic Trash
Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art Paperback by J.H. Shapiro is a very special book for children to explain the biography of the Tyree Guyton, the Heidelberg Project and the how art and community involvement work together for community service.
A wonderful pictorial biography for children to help children understand the serious issues and history of why the Project began and what it hoped and hopes to address. Teachers, parents and adults are encouraged to participate when a child reads this book due to the subject matter. Younger children will love the pictures, slightly older children will be propelled to ask questions and Magic Trash helps facilitate a truly educational experience for any child.
Documentary And Awards
- HBO produced the Emmy award winning documentary “Come Unto Me: The Faces of Tyree Guyton” in 1999.
- Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence 2005
- Third most visited cultural project in Detroit
- “Connecting the Dots, Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project” book by Tyree Guyton
- Shrinking Cities Exhibition
Heidelberg Houses Current and Past
- Move To the Rear – bus
- Doors Of Opportunity
- The Number House
- The OJ House
- The Taxi House
- The Clock House
- The War House
- Dotty Wotty House
- Obstruction Of Justice
Heidelberg Group Tours
Over 200,000 people visit the area per year which includes the houses, children’s’ workshop, library, and the multi purpose space, House That Make Sense Center (HTMS.) The project earned the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence silver medal in 2005.
Group Tours can be arranged by contacting:
The Heidelberg Project