Exploring Art Through the Heidelberg Project

Pile of Stuffed Animals in Boat at the Heidelberg Project

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.

Pile of Stuffed Animals in Boat at the Heidelberg Project

What is the Heidelberg ProjectDot House at the Heidelberg Project

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 work takes an odd twist on the abandoned homes located on the east side of Detroit. Using dolls, shoes, 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 to improve the social and economic health of the surrounding community. Heidelberg Project is located on 3600 Heidelberg St. and is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.Doll with Phone at the Heidelberg ProjectTeddy Bears on a Burned Out House at the Heidelberg ProjectShoes in a Fence at the Heidelberg ProjectBlue Shoes at the Heidelberg ProjectDoll with Rock and Roll Fingers

History of the Heidelberg ProjectBurned Out Home decorated by the Heidelberg Project

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, and thus, Heidelberg Project was born. Tyree would find objects and incorporate them into groupings that would make people pause and wonder is this art or junk?Pink Car Top in Grass at the Heidelberg Project

The project has not been without controversy over the last 30 years and still is among 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 SUV’s parked along the south side of the road and people milling about among the sculptures and displays.Bike Tours Through the Heidelberg Project

The ArtRecords on a Wood Framed House at the Heidelberg Project

While the area might seem intimidating with all of the stuff it has, 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 it. It gets you thinking what is the meaning behind all the clocks and makes you think about where you have been, where you are now, and where you are going.Car Hoods Lined up in Front of You House at the Heidelberg ProjectStuffed animals on roof at the Heidelberg ProjectStuffed animal on roof with blue face - Heidelberg Project

Giant stuffed bear riding a bicycle type machine.

SummarySpiderman and Tasmanian Devil at the Heidelberg Project

This neighborhood has plenty to see for the budding photographer, the urban explorer, or someone who wants to visit a unique and unusual side of Detroit. 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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Further Reading

If you are coming to Detroit for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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