Heidelberg Project

For the past 28 years, the Heidelberg Project has withstood the test of time, the elements, and arsonists. Tyree Guyton started the Project at his grandfather's encouragement when he returned to Detroit’s East Side after losing three brothers to street violence. They transformed abandoned lots into works of art with the help of paint, abandoned items, and neighbors.

From “The Number House” to the “Obstruction of Justice House", each lot is aptly named after the motif that adorns it. At a first glance, the homes are seen to be decorated with clocks, dots, and lots of paint while the abandoned lots are covered in piles of seemingly disjointed items. However, walking down Heidelberg Street, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of harmony among the chaos. What started out as a small idea of painting an abandoned house led to an entire street that inspired hundreds of thousands of visitors to come visit it every year.

The Heidelberg Project aims to improve the lives of people and neighborhoods through art. Their mission is “to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community.” 

But is it art? I believe that you can't really define art. What is considered art at one time and in one culture may not be considered art in a different time or place. Throughout the Heidelberg Project’s history, there have been two Mayors of Detroit who didn't believe it to be art and had it partially demolished. In more recent years, it has faced a plethora of arsonists intent on burning it down. However, despite the destruction it has faced, the Project still stands stronger than ever with the help of volunteers. If the Heidelberg Project is able to bring out such strong reactions in people, then what can it be, if not art? 

Before we left, a school bus pulled up on the street behind us and dropped off a group of children. One young boy started singing as he walked down Heidelberg Street and welcomed us to his neighborhood. I couldn’t help but smile at his friendliness. I leave hopeful of how the Heidelberg Project will evolve and I look forward to my next visit. A big thanks to my cousin for taking these wonderful pictures and as always, to you guys for reading! Til next week!

Posted by : Maheen Asghar