3600 Heidelberg St
McDougall Hunt Neighborhood
Just 15 minutes away from the African Bead Museum is the Heidelberg Project. I went anticipating a fabulous folk art installation due to all the hype, disappointing is the kindest word I can use. That being said, the motivation behind the project and the heart poured into it, should not ever be dismissed.
There are three over riding themes to the Heidelberg project: clocks, faces, and shoes. The clocks are to remind you that it is never too late to act. You may think you do not have the time, or it is too late, but no, it is always time to act.
There are faces everywhere, these are the faces of God.
The shoes represent the “soul”. Do not judge me until you walk a mile in my shoes.
The Heidelberg Project is the brainchild of Tyree Guyton who was assisted by his wife, Karen, and grandfather Sam Mackey. Guyton is a painter and sculptor described as an urban environmental artist. Like others, he has waged a personal war on urban blight on Detroit’s East Side, transforming his neighborhood into a living indoor/outdoor art gallery. Through his art, Guyton has drawn attention to the plight of Detroit’s forgotten neighborhoods and spurred discussion and action. The strength in this installation is the fact that it is a political protest. Guyton’s childhood neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots, coming back to Heidelberg Street after serving in the Army, Guyton was astonished to see that the surrounding neighborhood looked as if “a bomb went off”.
Guyton started by painting his Mother’s house with bright dots of many colors and attaching salvaged items to the houses in the neighborhood. It was a constantly evolving work that transformed a hard-core inner city neighborhood where people were afraid to walk, even in daytime, into one in which neighbors took pride. While Tyree’s work is truly inspirational and excellent, for some reason the Heidelberg Project does not reflect the high quality of artistic ability that the man possesses.
However, he is a strong member of his community and includes children whenever he can, which is possibly reflected in the work, in other words, it is more community art than individual art. The city of Detroit has destroyed many of the installations and yet it stands as a true testament to the power of creativity in creating hope and a bright vision for the future.
The neighborhood seems to be mixed about the project. There are signs everywhere asking that you do not photograph the homes or the occupants, and at the same time, they sit on their stoops asking for money to help with their repairs. The more enterprising sell water, and snacks. They are all so very friendly, however, that handing over a buck or two is done with pleasure.