The Heidelberg Project in Detroit is unlike anything I have ever seen before. And just so we are clear, this is not a compliment – at all.
Tyree Guyton, a self-described artist, grew up on this street in a house that is currently painted white with polka dots. Frustrated with the decline of the neighborhood, Tyree wanted to express himself by painting polka dots and dumping discarded items around the block in the name of art.
While I completely understand that art is in the eye of the beholder and not every piece of art is something to be on display at a museum, it seems that art should include some effort. Instead in this neighborhood in Detroit you find garbage.
There are shoes everywhere. And while the artist said that the “soles” were really meant to be “souls,” all I could think about was how most of these shoes looked as though they had little wear. When trying to make a statement about poverty and the decline of Detroit, these shoes could have been repurposed by giving them to someone in need.
“The Heidelberg Project (“HP”) is a Detroit-based community organization designed to improve the lives of people and neighborhoods through art. Our mission is to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community”
The point can be made that the artist is trying to bring awareness to the plight of Detroit. I didn’t see that at all. I saw an artist who made the project about himself. His answers were canned and juvenile. When asked what he saw in the future for the project, he responded, “It’ll be what it’s going to be.”
Tyree doesn’t even live in the neighborhood that he uses as a dumping ground. How can he dump garbage under the claim of improving a neighborhood when he doesn’t even choose to live there? This left me with the impression that the focus of this project is Tyree, not the neighborhood.
I actually had to ask if the port-a-potty and garbage cans were part of the display. When I was done chewing my gum, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to throw it on the ground or in a garbage can. When art is indistinguishable from garbage or the toilet, then you have a creativity issue. After returning to the hotel, I felt as though I needed a tetanus shot and a shower.
Yes they come. But, how many are laughing? A family visting from Grand Rapids told me, “This is an embarrassment to Michigan.”