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