Road Trip Diaries | Detroit’s Heidelberg Project

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It was after my first trip to Detroit last year that I was introduced to the Heidelberg project. I found it such an interesting initiative in a city not really known for it’s urban beauty, more for it’s urban decay.

What is the Heidelberg project? Well, you can check out their website and Facebook, but in essence, it’s an outdoor art installation that was started some 25 years ago by artist Tyree Guyton. In a pretty hard core area of inner city Detroit, in a place where people were often scared to walk even in the daytime, he started painting bright colours on some houses and attaching some random items he found.

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It grew from that to an area that is now used as a community organization that aims to improve the lives of the people in the neighborhood through art. Having public spaces, offering art education… and also creating a pretty unique tourist destination.

All of what they say is true. Right around the corner are abandoned houses and businesses. Windows boarded up, stores closed for many years. But when you turn the corner and get your first glimpse of Heidelberg street, you can really sense what the community is really about. It’s not the decay and ruin Detroit is known for… it’s about the people wanting to make better lives for their kids and themselves. Your mindset really changes when you stroll around the neighborhood.

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Sadly, there have been a rash of fires over the last year, mostly caused by arson, that have destroyed some pretty iconic houses. The latest was in March 2014 when a fire burned down the Doll House. Maybe because that was fresh in my mind, I seemed to have been inspired by the various dolls I found, and decided to photograph them.

If you head to Detroit, make a stop on Heidelberg street. Before heading downtown to walk in Greektown, we decided to make a stop at the Heidelberg Project and both myself and my girlfriend loved the vibe of the area.  We took a few minutes to speak to some locals (who you should totally respect and not photograph or even park in front of their house… this is their home) and they are very down to earth and happy to offer up the beauty of the art on their street for the world to see.

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