Seeing Spots

Detroit’s Heidelberg Project forced to move headquarters

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

Detroit’s enigmatic Heidelberg Project (HD) has become a victim of its own success. The urban art project, which is known for turning entire city blocks and vacant houses into art pieces, must move its headquarters. After eight and a half years in a large space in Detroit’s Midtown, the non-profit is packing up as the building was sold in December for $1.2 million, well more than the project could afford.

Always the optimists, the timing may be serendipitous as HD is in the midst of a change in direction. Called Heidelberg 3.0, the new plan is to engage with the community even more than in the past. The project has also recently gone through a change of leadership with Jenenne Whitfield, the founder Tyree Guyton’s wife, becoming the CEO and president.

“Detroit is changing. Its neighborhoods are changing and Midtown is a prime example,” said Whitfield in a press statement. “When we came to the neighborhood in 2009, the buildings around us were vacant and run-down as evidenced by the building adjacent to us. The Heidelberg Project brought an energy and a creativity that certainly contributed to the new energy that the Midtown area is experiencing today. While we made an effort to purchase the building, the realities of the market are beyond the reach of our non-profit arts organization.”

Currently, the main portion of the project, which attracts an estimated 200,000 visitors a year, is being packed up and readied for storage. While the plan is to eventually relaunch the project, for the time being much of the artwork created by Guyton since 1986 will be out of public view.

These changes, though daunting, are still far from the most adversity that the Heidelberg project has been up against. Since 2013, a string of over a dozen acts of arson destroyed portions of the project. Perhaps the latest news will complete the phoenix-like story of this one-of-a-kind urban experience.

Related Stories