As a fairly new resident to the Detroit area, I needed to get out and experience what Detroit has to offer during the winter. My roommate, who had grown up in Metro Detroit, was shocked to hear that I was unfamiliar with The Heidelberg Project. After a brief explanation of what it consisted of, I was convinced that I needed to spend my Saturday afternoon there.
3600 Heidelberg Street, in downtown Detroit, is a scene unlike any that I have ever witnessed. Abandoned homes covered in various forms of eccentric art line the blocks surrounding the area. Each home is covered in so much detail that I could have spent hours examining each one and cannot wait to go back. Palpable messages are shouted from these homes, yet with just a step closer, hidden memorandums sneak out and surprise you. Each exhibit offers something completely unique and is entirely encompassing. Most of the art displayed comes from recycled pieces of local Detroit goods, such as stuffed animals, couches, and street signs. The works of art are designed to tell a story regarding specific issues in Detroit’s society. The Heidelberg Project was purposefully positioned in an impoverished area and is meant to shed light on the lack of resources in that neighborhood. Though it is meant for enjoyment, visitors are cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and to not bring valuables while visiting.
Founder, Tyree Guyton, started the Heidelberg Project in 1986 to improve his society. His hope was to inspire children in the community through his art and desire to create change. In addition to providing a place for locals and tourists to enjoy, Guyton, staff members, and volunteers hold workshops and other art education programs. Many children in the surrounding neighborhoods are forced to walk to school and see nothing but abandoned homes and crime. Being able to walk through the community that the Heidelberg Project has constructed gives children an opportunity to see what their neighborhoods have the potential to become. The ACE2 (Art, Community, and Environmental Education) Project was started to supplement the art education programs that the Detroit Public School system was unable to support. The ACE2 project also offers school presentations with workshops, a field trip to the Heidelberg Project, and a tour of Tyree Guyton’s studio. An educator’s kit also comes complimentary with the ACE2 project, which includes creative lesson plans and suggestions for end of semester projects.
The Heidelberg Project puts on events year round for everyone to enjoy. These include the Detroit Design Festival, the Detroit Arts Immersion, and the Medley of Unorganized Beauty. A full list of events is available on their website so spectators can plan their visits accordingly. There are many ways to get involved with the Heidelberg Project. There are opportunities for volunteers, employees, and ways to donate. However, the best way to become involved is to spread the word of the Heidelberg Project and support art programs in every community. Follow the Heidelberg Project on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with what is happening next!
Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer