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.
Posts tagged with "Heidelberg Project":
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 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.
Graffiti: art or vandalism? For some there's an absolute answer to that question, but for most there's room for debate. In New York City, police chief Bill Bratton calls graffiti "the first sign of urban decay," while work from Banksy (and sometimes lesser-known street artists) fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at New York auctions. Detroit became the latest city to grapple with this question in an official capacity, with city council members previewing ordinances designed to cut back on blight that have brought a somewhat philosophical question into sharp legal focus: How do you distinguish between blight and art in a city renowned (or reviled) for both? Council member Raquel Castañeda-López told Detroit's MetroTimes she and her colleagues are considering a variety of ordinances. One would fine building owners for not promptly removing graffiti on their property, and offer tax incentives for installing deterrents like security cameras. To exempt legitimate works of art, Castañeda-López also said they're looking into creating a citywide registry for street art. That's a complex task, however, especially for a cash-strapped city like Detroit. They're trying to avoid repeating an embarrassing mistake made last year, when city officials issued more than $8,000 in fines to commissioned graffiti galleries along the city's Grand River Creative Corridor. Collectives like the Heidelberg Project and individual artists like Brian Glass, known as Sintex, continue to battle with city officials who must enforce vandalism statutes while enjoying the creative community's substantial tourist draw. Funding for the citywide registry could come from a “one percent for art” program that earmarks public development money for cultural programs. "We're deciding what makes the most sense for the city," Castañeda-López told the MetroTimes' Lee DeVito. The city will schedule public meetings later this month to continue the conversation.