The Heidelberg Project started with one man, Tyree Guyton. Growing up in Detroit during the riots of the late 60s, Guyton was dismayed at the decay and segregation that followed.
In 1986, he decided to transform his childhood neighbor, focusing on Heidelberg Street. There were plenty of vacant lots and empty houses to use as his canvas. Guyton’s environment is made of paint and discarded objects, many toys.
Though Guyton has won awards for his work, the city demolished parts of the environment in the 1990s, bulldozing five houses. Fortunately, the court ruled that the Project is protected under the first amendment. However, that didn’t stop arsonists who destroyed another nine houses last year.
The Heidelberg Project is now a community organization that encourages residents to use “artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community.”
Guyton brazenly uses the tools of blight and abandonment, empty houses or buildings burned to their foundation and trashed household goods, to bring attention to those issues. The Heildelberg Project is an excellent example of activist art, continuing to rise form the ashes and encouraging the community to discover hope in debris.
It was a unusually sunny for a midwestern winter day, so the photos are great. Here are some overview shots of the two-block environment. I’ll post more detailed photos on my Instagram account.