Heidelberg Project

A project by Tyree Guyton

In 1986, artist Tyree Guyton returned to Heidelberg, the street where he grew up on Detroit’s East Side, Michigan, and found it in shambles, riddled with drugs and deepening poverty. Bruised by the loss of three brothers to the streets, Guyton was encouraged by his grandfather to pick up a paintbrush instead of a weapon and look for a solution.

Armed with a paintbrush, a broom and neighborhood children, Tyree and Grandpa began by cleaning up vacant lots on Heidelberg Street. From the refuse they collected, Tyree transformed the street into a massive art environment. Vacant lots literally became “lots of art” and abandoned houses became “gigantic art sculptures.” He not only transformed vacant houses and lots, he integrated the street, sidewalks and trees into his mammoth installation and called the work, the Heidelberg Project — “HP”.

In 1988, supporters of Tyree helped to organize his effort and the Heidelberg Project was officially incorporated. The Heidelberg Project’s mission is to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of the greater community. Much like conducting a symphony, Tyree systematically re-arranged the existing landscape on Heidelberg Street by incorporating found objects, the street, the trees, the sidewalks, abandoned houses, vacant lots, nature and even the people.

Despite some vocal critics, the demolition of parts of the community in 1991 and 1999 by the city of Detroit, and a number of other attacks as the 2013 suspected arson of the “House of Soul,” an abandoned building decorated with hundreds of records, today the project still goes on thanks to the innate Tyree’s optimism who vowed to continue expanding his vibrant art community.


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