TNB Night Owl – The Heidelberg Project

Stuffed Animal House. Photo by Fen Lebalme

Tonight’s a quickie, due to temporary site issues.

We recently covered the Las Vegas museum recording the history of the most famous street in the city. Now for the converse: a street museum providing a look at the history of one of America’s most famous cities.

The Heidelberg Project began in the late 1980s, when artist Tyree Guyton, upon returning to Detroit after a stint in the U.S. Army, decided to do something about his old neighborhood. He had watched the city’s slide during some of the conflicts of the late 1960s but had been unprepared for the devastation which had occurred during his time away.

Initially operating in conjunction with his grandfather and then on his own, he began reclaiming the street where he had grown up. The entirety of one city block of houses had been abandoned, and he used them as the focus of his art project.

The Heidelberg Project is a testimonial to positivity. Using the abandoned homes and cars as well as larger pieces of trash, Guyton attempted to show that the true core of the inner city is the same as anywhere else: the people. Individual houses have themes, supplanting the character normally provided by living residents. Today, as a testimonial to the strong women who helped shape his life, the people who run the organization are Guyton and a band of women of varying ethnicities. It’s a representation of Detroit’s people coming together to help each other.

Of course, that help only goes so far. In 2014 and 2015 many of the houses were hit by a mystery arsonist. And the political leadership of the city of Detroit has responded to the attempt to restore hope by hitting Guyton with a huge tax bill, claiming that by upgrading the abandoned homes he has effectively taken ownership of them and is responsible for the property tax.

Still, there are tours, and there are donations, and the organization continues to present a positive face for the people of Detroit – some good feelings which are highly appreciated in troubled times.

Question of the night: Have you been involved in any community projects?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.