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An oasis of art
S OJT- Driving through Detroit, the rem-
' s of a once-thriving metropolis surround
The 127-square mile city houses an esti-
d70,000 abandoned buildings. Many of
-ighborhoods boast at least one of these
y dwellings which can make convenient
uaries for criminals ina city struggling
some of the nation's worst crime rates..
comes as little surprise, then, that the
mediarepresentation of the Motor City's
vie has become "ruin porn": stark pho-
t half-burnt, empty buildings situated in
c ted lots grace the pages of publications
the globe, where journalists and crit-
i moan the state of the city, but do little to
a lly improve it.
t this attitude often fails to portray the
ot side of Detroit, the side with a tight-knit
comiinunity working together to create last-
ing change. And while an emerging art scene
promises to breath new life into the city, it's
another, older art project that has made a posi-
tive impact throughout the city and its com-
munity for almost three decades.
The Heidelberg Project is an art initiative
on the east side of the city started by Detroit
artist and resident Tyree Guyton. In 1986,
Guyton reclaimed his childhood neighbor-
hood, transforming vacant lots into what is
now\- considered world-renowned outdoor art
instllations. Founded with the belief that the
community has the right to grow and flourish,
the Project has turned two rui-down blocks
in the heart of Detroit into an oasis of art.
:he installation boasts a polka-dotted
ho , a stuffed animal-covered boat and vari-
ou, other "discarded object" installations. It's
beyuse of these colorful, uniquely Heidelberg
st cs that visitors - roughly 275,000 each
yea, - flock to the city from across the world.
1I:owever, it's not just the reclamation of
the potentially destructive abandoned build-
ings that has earned the Heidelberg Project
its sterlingreputation. In addition to installing
art, the Project hosts education programs for
school children as well as the Emerging Artist
Program, which showcases the artwork of an
artist who has yet to present in a formal gal-
Amanda Sansoterra, the executive direc-
tor of the Emerging Artist Program, said the
Project not only provides an outlet for emerg-
ing artists and programs for Detroit's youth,
but is also an indisputable economic asset to
the city. While the Project itself doesn't gener-
ate money, visitors to the installations patron
local restaurants and other business, sending,
money back into the community.
It is this help to the city that really solidifies
why the Project was created.
"We have a huge economic impact on the
city of Detroit," Sansoterra said. "$1.3 million
on a yearly basis ... and that's awesome;we just
couldn't have asked for anything better."
of the School of Art & Design, has volunteered
by Alicia Adamczyk
-E C . j
outtakes photo by ruby wallau/daily
at the Project for five years. Now an employee,
he said though he grew up in Detroit and had
a vague idea Heidelberg existed, it wasn't until
he began volunteering there that he realized
the positive impact it has on the community.
"Actually getting a chance to know what
the Project means to Detroit and to the people
was a wake-up call for me," Simpson said.
In his five years, he has had the opportunity
to really connect with community members
and get their take on the art. He said the com-
munity has taken especially well to the visi-
tors who travel to the Project from across the
"They meet all these people from around
the world they never would have met any
way outside of this art," he said. "It's not only
brought a change in the art community, it's
brought a change to their homes as well."
The Project's impact reaches farther than
the locals who see it everyday, according to
Simpson. He said though many people just
pass through, there are certain visitors that
the art really speaks to.
"Every now and then you get that couple or
that family who just want to engage a conver-
sation about art and about Detroit, and, you
know, I'm so happy to be here, at this moment,"
he said. "I've seen it put some smiles on faces."
He cited one defining moment in his time
at the Project: After months of researching,
a family from the East Coast made its way to
Heidelberg during a brief stop on a road trip.
Simpson said the way the family reacted to the
Project is one of his favorite memories from
* his time involved with the installation.
"Not knowing what to expect, they just
fell in love," Simpson said. "They painted a
polka dot and they took a picture by it, and I
just knew that they would never forget that
While the Heidelberg Project has been
expanding in recent years, times haven't
xr - -me always been as sunny. Twice the city has
demolished parts of the Project, but the art
has always found its way back, a fact Sanso-
terra said cannot be overlooked.
"You have people who still look at it as an
eyesore, that it is junk," Sansoterra said. "But
those are the people who don't understand
what 'found object' art is, or 'discarded object'
art. It's become a project that is respected, and
so you're obviously going to-have people who
challenge the ideology behind it, that chai-
lenge the aesthetic of it - that's still there. And
we welcome it."
Though "ruin porn" and the city's decline
may dominate the national conversation about
Detroit for now, the Heidelberg Project offers
hope that, at least little by little - or in this
case, block by block - the city can make a
"Obviously we hear all these things about
how dangerous it still is," Sansoterra said.
"(But) it is a changing city - there are still
TERESA MATHEW great things goingon."
"Photo from Jason Segel's short lived folk career?"
- LSA senior Adam Lefferts
on the record
"It would be so helpful if we could change things at the
state level and do it as a comprehensive plan because I
feel it's just an issue this country has stuck its head in the
sand about forever. And it's not right"
- UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT MARY SUE COLEMAN on the
University's desire to provide tuition equality to undocumented
"Thank you, '30 Rock,' for giving us the best days of our
'flerm.' Lemon, out!"
- KAYLA UPADHYAYA, Daily managing arts editor, on thefinal
episode of Tina Fey's NBC comedy.
"We're part of the basketball history and we want to
remain a part of that history."
- JIMMY KING, former Michigan basketball player and Fab Five
member, lobbyingfor the return oftheFinalFour bannersfrom 1992
and 1993 to Crisler Center.
their short, animated
film "Paperman" on
YouTube'just in time for
the Oscars. Nominated
for Best Animated
Short Film, the short
centers around paper
airplanes, a lost love at
first sight and a killer
musical score. Swoon.
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