Detroit, MI

The Heidelberg Project - Exploring another side of Detroit

Heather Raulerson

When one says, let’s take a drive downtown to Detroit and see some art, most would say, where would you go? I mean, where can you not go to see art in Detroit! There is so much street art in Detroit; it is hard to miss it now. But, if you want to see one of the lesser-known beauties of Detroit, the Heidelberg Project is the place to explore. This entire neighborhood is a creative and unusual art masterpiece and worth a trip down there.
the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

What is the Heidelberg Project
Doll at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

The Heidelberg Project is a two-block outdoor art environment in the heart of an urban Detroit neighborhood. Through art, the founder, Tyree Guyton, strives to inspire people to use their creative abilities to better their lives and communities. Tyree’s artwork takes an odd twist on the abandoned homes located on the east side of Detroit. Using dolls, shoes, stuffed animals, and other forms of medium, he creates eye-popping and bizarre works of art that you wouldn’t find in any museum or art gallery. The vision of this art project is to inspire people and communities to appreciate and use artistic interpretation to enhance their lives and improve the social and economic health of the surrounding community. Heidelberg Project is located at 3600 Heidelberg St. and is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
stuffed animals at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

History of the Heidelberg Project
blue shoes at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

This neighborhood used to be a typical downtown Detroit neighborhood in shambles, with drugs and poverty rampant. Since 1986, Tyree Guyton has been cleaning up one vacant lot after another along with abandoned houses and changing them into one massive art environment. He integrated the art into the sidewalks, and surrounding trees of the vacant lots, on the abandoned houses, and thus, the Heidelberg Project was born. Tyree would find objects and incorporate them into groupings to make people pause and wonder, is this art or junk?
metal art at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

The project has not been without controversy over the last 30 years and still is among the critics. But, I believe the overall effect is positive for this community and the greater good of Detroit and will continue to be so. It brings people downtown that generally would not visit. There are bike tours that now go through this area. On weekends you can see many SUVs parked along the south side of the road and people milling about among the sculptures and displays along with walking up and down the sidewalks taking pictures.
band doll at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

The Art
stuffed animals in a boat at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

While the area might seem intimidating with all of its stuff, it is a fantastic experience overall! I loved being able to wander off and explore the ladders, the polka dot house, and the house filled with dolls. There are so many different pieces that I guarantee the more you go back, you will find unusual things you didn’t notice before. One of the things you will see widespread around the area is clocks painted with all different times on them. It gets you thinking about the meaning behind all the clocks and makes you think about where you have been, where you are now, and where you are going.
art frame house at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

bicyclists at the Heidelberg ProjectHeather Raulerson

This neighborhood has plenty to see for the budding photographer, the urban explorer, or someone who wants to visit Detroit's unique and unusual side. You might even run into Tyree on the weekend. This is a great excuse for you to get out and see a portion of Detroit you haven’t seen before. Heidelberg Project is part of our city, and we as Detroiters should be proud of the growing art scene within our city. Come and take a look for yourself!

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Freelance travel writer and photographer who loves sharing her adventures from around the world. It is never too late to pursue your dream!

Rochester Hills, MI

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