Monday, January 24, 2011

Litterbugs, Part Four – Heidelberg

The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, Michigan, is one of those things that must be seen to be believed.
It's the creation of artist Tyree Guyton. It is not about litter or trash, and never has been. But it does say something about reclamation.

Located on the city's tough East Side, the Heidelberg Project is usually described as an "outdoor art environment," or as a political protest against the decline of a once-great American city.

It is all that, and more.

"I was told that my job as an artist was to come up with solutions," Guyton says. "I came up with a solution that makes people put aside the fear. And they come here because they gotta see it."

The project began in 1986 with Guyton, encouraged and assisted by his grandfather, painting brightly colored polka dots on a series of  houses, some of them abandoned. Then he began attaching salvaged materials to some of the houses.
I saw the Heidelberg Project back on March 1, 1990, when I still lived in Motown. By then it had already gained widespread attention. I don't know how many houses it consists of.

The environment has evolved steadily over the years. In spite of the positive, worldwide attention it has drawn, it's been the center of considerable controversy, most of it local. It's all that salvaged stuff attached to the houses, I think, that really pissed people off. Is it art? some wondered.

It is art, came one answer, that responds to its place. It is art that is giving its community a shot of adrenaline.

The City of Detroit owned the titles to some of the houses. On two occasions, they have had some them demolished. Most likely these include the house in the black and white photos in this post.

But where parts of the Heidelberg Project have been destroyed, new stuff has been added.
That's me in the mirror
Strictly speaking, the Heidelberg Project may not be about litter or trash. But it has turned trash into treasure; it has looked at a lot of cast-off stuff as a valuable resource.

The project still exists. It gets its name from Heidelberg Street, on which it resides, and where Tyree Guyton grew up. Many who live in the area today find it a point of pride.

"I want to be part of that great comeback for the city of Detroit," the artist declares. "And I do believe it's going to come back."

The Heidelberg website:

No comments:

Post a Comment