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Detroit’s Heidelberg Project to transform into artistic village

Art Midwest
The Penny Car at the Heidelberg Project. (David Yarnall/Wikimedia Commons)

Of Detroit’s many enigmatic urban spaces, perhaps the most notable is the Heidelberg Project (HP). The urban art project is comprised two blocks of vacant lots and abandoned houses filled with found objects and brightly painted surfaces. Now 30 years into its existence, HP Founder Tyree Guyton is changing the project’s direction.

The Obstruction of Justice (OJ) House at the Heidelberg Project. (David Yarnall/Wikimedia Commons)

The Obstruction of Justice (OJ) House at the Heidelberg Project. (David Yarnall/Wikimedia Commons)

The Heidelberg Project’s 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.” At the heart of the project is the belief that, “citizens, from all cultures, have the right to grow and flourish in their communities.” In order to expand on these ideals, Tyree Guyton is planning to disassemble the entire project. Guyton’s hope is to transform the one-man project into an arts-focused community project called Heidelberg 3.0. This will not be the first time that the HP has been dismantled. This is just the first time it has been done on purpose. The city bulldozed the project twice in the 1990s.

Since its inception, the project has had its ups and downs, politically, economically, and critically. Funded primarily by donations and fundraising, the project has moved from a pilgrimage site of outsider art to a world renowned site of cultural expression. An estimated 200,000 visitors from around the world come to the Heidelberg project every year. The ever-changing project will slowly evolve over the coming years, with the familiar menagerie of old toys, painted signs, and discarded household items slowly disappearing. Eventually, the two blocks will be developed into a “Funky Artistic Cultural Village,” which will include indoor art and educational classes in the four houses within the project. The full vision of the new Heidelberg 3.0 has not been released, but it promises to be colorful.

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