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Reclaiming the Canvas is a community effort to transform the Obstruction of Justice House site from an act of arson into a new work of art.
The Heidelberg Project
Detroit, Michigan
United States
2 Team Members

The street is covered in an explosion of colorful polka-dots. Every turn of the head is met with broad grins, brightly painted shoes, trees covered in clocks--color colliding with color. You're definitely not in Kansas anymore! In fact, you're on the East Side of Detroit. Welcome to the Heidelberg Project!  As a 501(c)3, the Heidelberg Project's (HP) mission is to change lives and communities through our arts driven programming.

However, most of the world knows us for our inspirational and controversial two block outdoor art environment built largely from repurposing found and abandoned materials. The artscape is the creation of world renowned artist Tyree Guyton on Heidelberg Street in the urban community where he grew up. Whether you love it or hate it, the true beauty of the project is its ability to spark thought and dialogue. Unfortunately, just last week something else was sparked on Heidelberg Street.


Say It Ain't So!

In the wee hours of the morning on May 3rd, 2013, Detroit artist Tyree Guyton learned that one of his longest standing pieces of public art had been set on fire. The Obstruction of Justice (OJ) House, an integral element of the Heidelberg Project (HP) art environment, was created in 1995 in protest to the 1991 demolition ordered by then Mayor Coleman Young. The OJ House stood centrally in the project and continued to evolve through an additional city-led demolition and constantly changing social climates. By the time the fire claimed it, the OJ House had grown into not only the longest standing house installation within the project, but also one of the most impactful. The Detroit Fire Department skillfully preserved nearby artwork and contained the fire in the nick of time. Though the structure itself is not salvageable, its front façade stands proud and firm against May skies. If we didn't know better, we would take the facade's resilience as a testament to its creator's unwavering spirit. After the smoke settled, it was none other than Tyree himself reminding both staff and supporters of how the internationally acclaimed art environment has been in existence for 27 years: Love and perseverance.


"This is the real world, this is life. It's what you do from this, afterwards, that's important." -- Tyree Guyton

The Setback

The loss of the OJ house is definitely one to lament, but only briefly. Before Tyree can transform the fire site into a new installation, our first steps require major clean-up.

Though the surviving facade of the installation may fool an unfamiliar eye, the little that remains behind it speaks to the extent of loss. An innumerable number of art pieces were incinerated or stripped completely of their images. As Guyton continues to meditate on his vision for the new creation, a darker cloud looms over the process. In order to move "onwards & upwards," the Heidelberg Project must first face the unexpected and largely unknown costs to excavate the lot, fortify the facade, and replace thousands of dollars of lost materials and equipment.

Reclaiming the canvas will be an extensive process, but our HP family is excited and
committed to honoring the history, not just of a house, but of an entire city. The constant outpouring of encouragement, love and well-wishes from our Heidelberg Project family members around the world has us more inspired than ever.

So, How Can You Help?

Great question! By committing to reclaiming the canvas today, you can help restore
the site to make way for a new vision. All contributions will be dedicated to clean up,
preservation and the transformation of an act of arson into a work of art.

The first steps to readying the site are:

  • fire site excavation
  • removal of any site contaminants (asbestos, lead)
  • wiring
  • safety and structural support
  • environmental upgrade and safety
  • equipment rental and expert consultants

What we lostin the fire:

  • industrial lawn mower
  • wheel barrows
  • rakes, push brooms, and other various lawn and garden tools
  • ladders
  • plywood and construction materials
  • sound system
  • easels, brushes, paint etc.

Our Goal

Though our $15,000 goal is the minimum amount estimated for the reclamation, we are confident that we can raise funds beyond that number to ensure that a new art installation comes to fruition once the site is restored. The sooner we reach our goal, the more we can do, not to mention our platform fee's will be reduced from 6% to 3%.

What's in it for You?

No good deed should go unrecognized. We would like to offer perks more personal, unique to Detroit, as well as opportunities to make your own mark on the world renowned Heidelberg Project.

Other Ways You Can Help

Can't contribute monetarily? That's okay! If you're passionate about our cause, please use the share tools to get the word out about the Heidelberg Project and our efforts to Reclaim the Canvas.

Nothing that we do would be possible without the support and participation of
the Heidelberg Project family members (that means you!) across the globe. Thank you for always keeping our proverbial fire lit and reminding us that a phoenix is sure to rise from the ashes.

                       "Speramus Melior; Resurget Cineribus"

The Heidelberg Project is a nonprofit community arts organization. Now, in its 27th year, this dynamic 2-block outdoor art environment located in the heart of a blighted urban neighborhood on Detroit's east side, has become a symbol of hope for residents, the city and the world. (www.heidelberg.org).

Find This Campaign On
raised by 269 people in 30 days
106% funded
No time left
Verified Nonprofit
$15,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on June 7, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Creative Catalyst

    Always doing what you can to spur the movement forward - WRITE ON! No really, write to your friends on the limited edition OJ House note card set we're going to send you.

    37 claimed
  • $20USD
    Mighty Mouse

    1995 - The OJ House was created, and Mighty Mouse took his spot on the roof...but we had to use whole numbers. In addition to a shout out on our social media sites, you and a guest will be invited to attend the unveiling celebration on Heidelberg Street following completion of Tyree's new vision. Here, he will reveal the new use and name of the art installation where the OJ House once stood - and hopefully some of his newest dance moves! Yet another new beginning.

    33 claimed
  • $36USD
    'Rubble' Rouser

    'Ash' it stands now most of the house is rubble, but the facade stands tall in the middle of the 3600 block on Heidelberg St. Donate at this level and we'll send you a 5x7" professional photograph of the OJ House from deep within the Heidelberg Project archives. Along with the perks from the previous giving level.

    34 claimed
  • $67USD
    Game Changer

    1967 - The year that race riots in Detroit changed everything for Heidelberg Street. As a Game Changer you will receive a 6" HP signature painted polka dot on recycled paper, signed by Tyree Guyton himself (perfect for framing) as well as the perks from the previous giving levels.

    64 claimed
  • $99USD

    1999 - The year the Heidelberg Project suffered its second demolition by the city of Detroit and the OJ House was the only large installation to survive. Like the memories so many of you have, the OJ House will live on with you. You will receive a keepsake sized piece of it's charred remains, a reminder to always rebuild. (Certificate of authenticity included) You will also receive the perks from the previous giving levels.

    29 claimed
  • $250USD
    Art Appreciator

    Gain a deeper understanding of the vast symbolism behind the Project on your appreciators only tour narrated by one of the quirky yet knowledgeable HP staff. (bring a friend - we'll be cool, promise!) You can still help yourself to the previous perks.

    3 claimed
  • $500USD
    Art Advocate

    You've got our back and we're going to brag about it. In addition to all of the previously listed perks, you will be recognized in any upcoming programming around the OJ House transformation (and we've got a documentary in the works - if you catch our drift).

    5 claimed
  • $1,000USD
    Art Adventurer

    Perhaps you've heard that Detroit's art scene is on FIRE (too soon?). Jokes aside, the art here is hot. oops. OK...but really, everyone is talking about it and we want to give you a complete Detroit Arts experience. Tour all of the arts initiatives and galleries that we are so very proud of, with us, and you can keep all of the other perks too! (travel and lodging expenses not included)

    0 out of 5 claimed
  • $5,000USD

    Our highest perk level, as a dot-pportunist you will receive not only the perks from all other giving levels but an exclusive invitation of fine dining with the man himself - Tyree Guyton. Donors will share an intimate 7-course meal with the artist at the site of progress as the new vision nears completion. Additionally, you will be invited to paint a dot of significance in a new location on Heidelberg St. (travel and lodging expenses not included)

    0 out of 5 claimed
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