Posted on October 31, 2016 by Janet Steinberg
One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure

Part 3 of a Series

 

When I was in Heidelberg, Germany, I gazed at the huge ruin of the Heidelberg Castle, described by Mark Twain as follows: “...with empty window arches, ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towers--the Lear of inanimate nature--deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful."                                                             

When I was in Detroit, Michigan I gazed at Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Castle…the main attraction of the Heidelberg Project, an artsy environment in the heart of an urban community (3600 Heidelberg Street) on Detroit’s East Side.

 
WELCOME TO THE HEIDELBERG PROJECT


The Heidelberg Project evolved from a vision that took root in the mind of a 12-year old Tyree Guyton who watched his city burn during the riots of 1967. This young boy witnessed thriving communities rapidly becoming segregated urban ghettos characterized by poverty, neglect and despair.

In 1986 Tyree Guyton, no longer a young boy, took a stand against the decay, crime and apathy in the neighborhood where he was raised.  From discarded objects of everyday life, he created a festival of color and meaning that has been described as a “Ghetto Guggenheim”.  

 

 

 A SAMPLING OF ART IN “GHETTO GUGGENHEIM"


Tyree used vacant lots and abandoned houses as his canvas, and transformed an entire block into a world famous outdoor art environment and a thought-provoking statement on the plight of inner-city communities. Other galleries followed Guyton’s lead and opened their own galleries on the street.  Signage makes it clear that they are individually owned and not part of the Heidelberg Project.

 

 
THE DETROIT INDUSTRIAL GALLERY ALSO ON HEIDELBERG STREET


The Dotty Wotty House is Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Castle. You might wonder: What on earth is the Dotty Wotty House?  Well, let me tell you.  The Dotty Wotty House is an old white house covered in a plethora of polka dots of all sizes and colors. Why all the polka dots?  Here’s the scoop! 

 

 

 
THE DOTTY WOTTY HOUSE:  TYREE GUYTON’S HEIDELBERG CASTLE


Tyree’s Grandfather Sam Mackey (aka Grandpa Sam) liked jellybeans.  One day when Tyree was looking at some jellybeans he realized that people were like jellybeans.  They were all similar, yet all different, with all the colors mixing together.  Those jellybeans inspired a dot here and a dot there.  Hence, The Dotty Wotty House was born and became the centerpiece of a polka dot-painted street and a celebration of color, diversity and harmony known as The Heidelberg Project. 


The Heidelberg Project is the third most visited cultural site in Detroit, welcoming over 275,000 visitors from the US and over 140 countries each year.  In 2011 The Detroit Free Press named Tyree Guyton the Spiritual Godfather of Detroit’s  art movement. And of course, what would a popular tourist attraction be without a gift shop?

 
THE HEIDELBERG PROJECT’S GIFT SHOP


To some spectators, Tyree’s outdoor gallery is art, to others it is a protest, and to still others it is just a bunch of trash scattered along a 2-block area…in other words, an eyesore.


 
ART OR TRASH?  YOU BE THE JUDGE



However, supporters around the city, and around the world, view the Heidelberg Project as a symbol of hope and inspiration to a community in need.   It is a project that was born from protest and shaped by years of support, opposition, and a city in crisis.  The Heidelberg Project is known worldwide for it's one of a kind environment.  It is a movement powered by people with a focus on art education, art production and community development. The Heidelberg Project resides at the intersection of great art and great people and a community once ignored.

Margaret Mead said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer/Editor and International Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio 

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