I did not interview anyone from the Heidelberg Project, but I remembered speaking with the project's founder 2 years ago at the Great Lakes Building ReUse Conference in Buffalo and thought I should check it out. What a crazy/interesting place!
In the years of its existence, it has been a rather controversial project. Why? To some, Tyree Guyton's work is just prolonging the demise of the abandoned and unsafe buildings in their neighborhood. To others, it is a tragically beautiful depiction of the abandonment of Detroit. And to others still, it is an amazingly creative space and a spot of light in an otherwise destitute area. I myself am not certain how I feel about it.
The decorated buildings and sculptures made of old building materials at first look seem to suggest a different vision of the future--of what could be. Instead, I believe it is more an artist's depiction of the creative energy of people. Not an exact vision but more of a suggestion that even in the most forgotten and abandoned of places creative energy and hope still exists. I think that it is this powerful message that I connected most with while looking at the installations on Heidelberg Street. More than the artist's canvas and the political commentary behind the wild air vents snaking out of a ruined roof and the stuffed animals tacked on the side of a house, this message hits at the core of the current rebirth of Detroit. It is just one part of the message being sent through the Detroit: City of Hope (DCOH) campaign, but it is a strong one at that...yes Detroit has problems, yes many buildings are falling apart, but we can take back our neighborhoods, we can use our creative energy (which the Heidelberg Project has been instrumental in highlighting) and come up with realistic solutions that benefit US as a community.
Speaking of, DCOH is another entity on the list that I thought I should check in on. I contacted longtime organizer (and former autoworker)Rich Feldman to speak a little about this idea of a loose organization whose main goal is to connect businesses, nonprofits, people, etc. in order to create a network of caring Detroiters, excited to work with each other to achieve a better future for Detroit. DCOH and my visit with a pretty amazing lady will be in my next post.
For now my questions are: Why are artist communities seen to be an indicator of progress? Are they actually? Can you have artists move into an area without gentrifying it in the process? How do you get neighborhood artists invested in the area and community building rather than turning an area into a space that largely functions as an artists canvas with little to no community involvement? When is that ok and when do you need to integrate creation of art pieces and community?