Art from the Ashes: Securing a Legacy

In just 8 months, the world renowned Heidelberg Project has lost 5 of its most prominent art installations to arson. Our community needs security, and fast.
The Heidelberg Project
Detroit, Michigan
United States
3 Team Members

As a result of the 1967 race riots in Detroit, Tyree Guyton returned to his childhood stomping grounds to find them riddled with trash, drugs, and violence. Of the many abandoned, ignored neighborhoods around the city, Guyton's was statistically one of the hardest hit. As people had rushed to move out, crime had eagerly moved in.

Having already lost three brothers to the very streets he'd grown up on, Tyree decided to take a stand. In 1986, he started the Heidelberg Project as a way to use art to brighten the neighborhood for the many children on his block, but also to call attention to the extreme blight that had enveloped his community. Tyree took stake in his community, and as a result, not a single serious crime was reported within a two block radius of the project for over 26 years. The project is now in its 27th year.

Today, the Heidelberg Project (HP) is the third most visited cultural destination in Detroit and one of the world's most iconic displays of community art. The inspirational and controversial art environment, built largely by repurposing found and abandoned materials and homes, spans two city blocks and has generated $3.4 million for the city of Detroit. 

An Urgent Need

On May 3rd of this year, the HP suffered an unprecedented blow: The longest standing house installation on the project was nearly entirely claimed by a "suspicious" fire. Despite many leads and tips, the city's arson investigators were unable to make an arrest due to lack of municipal resources. Six months passed before the arsonist returned to finish the job, burning the Obstruction of Justice house completely to the ground on October 5th, 2013.

Just days later, the project was rocked by two more early morning arson attempts. The Number House and Penny House were targeted, but only suffered minor damage. Just as we paused to take a breath, the arsonist struck again. The popular House of Soul installation was leveled in the wee hours of November 12th, leaving behind nothing but charred rubble and bits of the vinyl records that once adorned it. 

Now, just five house installations remain, intermingled with the homes of our longtime neighbors and family members. Despite the fact that we are clearly under attack and believe we know who is responsible, the city's arson investigators claim they don't have the resources to pursue the investigation.  We must take matters into our own hands! 

UPDATE: In the early morning hours of November 21, the Heidelberg Project lost a THIRD home installation to arson. The Penny House on Mt. Elliot Street, which was under renovation to become our new offices and community center, has been reduced to rubble. The Penny House now rests in our hearts along with the OJ House and the House of Soul, leaving only 4 house installations remaining. Though we lost another house, the authorities have since launched a more in-depth investigation into the arson attacks.

UPDATE: On November 28, 2013 we were hit again by arson. The War Room house, the former home of Motown Legend Wilson Pickett, went up in flames around 5:15AM. Our patrol was present, but because the area is so dark, and the man was wearing dark clothing, it was difficult to catch him in the act.

UPDATE: December 8, 2013, The Clock House on Elba Street became the fifth home installation lost to arson. The blaze began much earlier than those preceding it, and just minutes before our patrolman arrived for his shift. We assure you we are adapting security and surveillance measures currently in place, and working in complete cooperation with the ATF.

Beyond the Artwork

The destruction of artwork and history is disheartening and frustrating, yes. The fact that these fires are inching nearer and nearer to our long time neighbors, however, is absolutely unacceptable.

Just as Tyree didn't wait for others to change his community, we cannot wait for others to secure it.  We have decided on three primary security measures to implement immediately within the extended Heidelberg Project Community: 

  • Nightly mobile patrol (already in place, but with limited funding)
  • Improved lighting of the area (solar-powered for sustainability)
  • Surveillance cameras (strategically integrated into lighting equipment, equipped with remote monitoring capabilities)

While our course of action is clear, the source of funding for this endeavor is not. Initial estimates for the necessary additions already teeter past $50,000. Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to believe that we will meet this demand on our own. That doesn't mean it's impossible; if each one of our Facebook friends gave just $1, we'd be more than half way there!

*If for some reason the Indiegogo Gods do not smile in our favor and we don't reach our entire goal, the funds that are raised will foot the bill for as much of the security cost as possible. For example, although Nightly patrols are already underway, there is absolutely no wiggle room in the budget to sustain this cost.

Make it a Movement

Wishing you could contribute some other way? You can! We need all the help we can get spreading the word about what we're up against here. PLEASE share this campaign with your friends & family and let them know why YOU believe we're a worthy cause. 

Share right from this Indiegogo page, tell a neighbor or coworker, and definitely follow us on Facebook (The Heidelberg Project) for share-worthy news, graphics, and updates. We're on Twitter, and Instagram, too (@heidelbergproj). 

Interested in donating surveillance equipment, expertise, or services? We're all ears! Reach us at (313)974-6894 or


Find This Campaign On
raised by 974 people in 1 month
109% funded
No time left
Verified Nonprofit
$50,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on December 20, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $5USD
    Smoke Signals

    Yes, five bucks. As a non-profit, we definitely know a thing or two about getting by on a budget. When we say that every dollar counts, we absolutely mean it. Pitch in a dollar today and know that you did what you could to preserve the Heidelberg Project for years to come.

    44 claimed
  • $10USD
    Glow Getters

    Glow Getters, we're stuck on you! Give ten bucks today, and we'll send a special campaign exclusive vinyl sticker your way!

    177 claimed
  • $25USD

    Tyree is always saying he's laid the foundation here, but it's up to us to take the HP "to the moon." Well, you can't know where you're going if you don't know where you're coming from! Donate $25 and receive a 4" x 6" archival photo print of the Heidelberg Houses that started it all! Pyro-tegés receive the brand new vinyl sticker, too!

    213 claimed
  • $50USD

    Okay, ART-sonists, this one's a big deal. For the first time ever, we're making a print of Tyree Guyton's most popular works available! Tyree has selected one of his favorites for a 5" x 7" print, exclusively for this campaign. You'll also receive the 4"x 6" house photo and the vinyl sticker.

    128 claimed
  • $75USD
    'Embers Only' Club

    The Dot is one of Tyree's most powerful signatures, one he's made all over Detroit and the world. Once you have one of your own, it's kind of like an official welcome to the family! Contribute $75 today in exchange for your very own 6" hand-painted dot (on recycled paper, of course!) signed by the man himself, Tyree Guyton. 'Embers' Only donors receive all the previous levels' perks, too!

    109 claimed
  • $100USD
    Hot Stuff

    Yeah, we're talkin' to you! It takes hot stuff to know hot stuff-- in addition to the previous perks, anyone contributing $100 or more will receive a special memento from the days of House of Soul: though the house was leveled by the fire, many record fragments survived. Snag your own soulful souvenir-- it's a piece of Detroit history!

    103 claimed
  • $250USD
    Smokin' Ace

    Smokin' Aces score a guided tour of the HP, but that's not all. You're invited to help construct a memorial at the House of Soul site! Bring a vinyl and let's get to work keeping the soul alive! Can't make it the project in person? Write your name or a message on a vinyl and send it our way. We'll send you photos of your record in action, and you'll score the lower levels' perks, too!

    7 claimed
  • $500USD

    Not only will our Phoenix level donors receive the perks from every other level, they also earn a spot on Heidelberg Street, literally! Send us your photo and we'll dedicate a sidewalk square to your name and portrait-- a Heidelberg-style caricature! Heck, we could use the extra set of eyes, anyway!

    12 claimed
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