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 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)
- 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
- plywood and construction materials
- sound system
- easels, brushes, paint etc.
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).