Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Heidelberg Project: July 2011

Earlier this year, I posted some text and photos of The Heidelberg Project, a remarkable outdoor art environment in Detroit. The black and whites in that post were more than twenty years old, and were taken during what at the time was my one-and-only visit there.

I got back to the Heidelberg Project recently. The art on display has changed since my first visit. Some of the original houses have been razed. But the concept remains the same.

As I said in my original post, the Heidelberg Project is one of those things that must be seen to be believed. I have some new photos, but my pictures, new and old, do not do it justice.

Briefly: the Heidelberg Project began in the mid-1980s and is the creation of Tyree Guyton. It is usually characterized as a protest against the decline of a once-great American city, which has fallen victim to the worst sort of neglect.

This sign at the east end of the project serves a dual purpose. It's both a welcome and copyright notice. It's okay to take pictures without permission, its fine print says, provided they are not used commercially.

I went back to the Heidelberg Project with my daughter in early July, 2011. We arrived at its west end, at the corner of Heidelberg and Ellery streets. The sidewalk in the photo at left runs parallel to Heidelberg Street.

(By the way, do not consider this post a history of the Heidelberg Project. Not much research involved. As I understand it, though, it originally involved just a few houses. It has since sprawled onto a couple of adjoining streets, although most of it remains here, on Heidelberg.)

One of the project's motifs is multi-colored dots. According to brochures available at the site, artist Guyton "got the idea that people were like jellybeans – all similar, yet different – all the colors together. Well, those jellybeans inspired a dot here, and a dot there, a dotty-wotty house and a polka-dot street, a celebration of color, diversity, and harmony."

Ain't it the truth.

In its largest context, I think you can make a case for Detroit being a sort of poster child for urban blight and decay. Starting in the late 1950s and the 1960s, the powers-that-be dumped billions of dollars into the American war machine, at the expense of domestic programs. But that's another topic for another time.
Check out the Heidelberg Project web site.

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