One of the best things about art is its undeniable power to transform lives. Art can help to build or strengthen communities, and it can have a lasting effect on forgotten or abandoned neighborhoods, long after the artist has moved on. Detroit, Michigan, as well as its suburban outskirts, is one of the most notoriously dangerous, impoverished, and failed American cities. Despite this, its people remain resilient, and its art community has found creative ways to sustain its creativity in hopes of rebuilding the city.
Tyree Guyton is one local artist who has faced his fair share of hardships and tragedy. After losing three brothers to street-level violence, all while watching Detroit’s economy and industry crumble around him, he decided that something had to be done. In 1986, Guyton painted his first polka dot on an abandoned house on Heidelberg Street, the same street where he grew up. After that, the Heidelberg Project was born – a massive initiative to foster a local art community, and more importantly, to revitalize the neighborhood in which Heidelberg Street lies.
The Heidelberg Project has been in the news a lot recently, as an arsonist continues to wreak havoc on the neighborhood, setting fire to the houses that exist as giant public art displays. So far, nine houses have fallen victim to fires in just under a year’s time, and the Heidelberg Project and its community struggles to remain resilient.
Featured and 2nd image, courtesy of Donna Martin, Flickr Creative Commons