Mar 11, 2014
Arson Fires Destroying Detroit’s Famed Heidelberg Project
Posted on Dec 10, 2013
Now someone is burning the dreams.
For more than a quarter-century, Detroit’s Heidelberg Project has drawn viewers from around the world to its odd blend of whimsy and social commentary affixed to trees, vacant lots and houses on the city’s battered east side. The product of street artist Tyree Guyton, the Heidelberg Project has transformed a nondescript Detroit street into something of an interactive, two-block open-air art museum, drawing the ire of mayors (Coleman A. Young) and a few neighbors while mesmerizing countless art aficionados.
And now someone is slowly, and methodically, burning it down.
Heidelberg’s core is a series of seven houses that over the years were decorated with a wide range of found materials. Since May, four of the houses and a smaller out building have been torched by an arsonist or arsonists in eight separate fires. The most recent—the “Clock House,” so named because of the timepieces that covered it—was destroyed late Sunday.
Amid the ashes are questions. Who would want to destroy both public art and a persistent draw of tourists? Are the arsons calculated or the acts of the mentally ill? And most important—can Heidelberg survive?
In some ways, the fight between the artist and the arsonist says more about the struggle for Detroit’s future than the city’s recent bankruptcy filing. What will persevere—hope or self-destruction? From the Detroit Free Press:
Supporters, who say they believe they know who is responsible (which raises the question of why no one has been arrested and the fires continue), are in the midst of a campaign through Indiegogo hoping to raise $50,000 to bolster a nightly patrol, improve nighttime lighting and add surveillance cameras with remote monitoring. The campaign ends Dec. 20.
One of the destroyed houses was the reported boyhood home of singer Wilson Pickett, but the more notable losses have been to the art itself—in the same city in which municipal bankruptcy threatens the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Yet Guyton has been making art even of the ashes. From The Detroit News:
—Posted by Scott Martelle.
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