The Heidelberg Project is launching a $100,000 capital campaign, officials said Friday, the first concrete step in remaking and largely dismantling Tyree Guyton’s sprawling, outdoor art exhibit.
The campaign, dubbed “Heidelberg 3.0,” goes live online Monday at heidelberg30.org.
Money raised will go to renovate the Numbers House, one of the few structures left on the fire-plagued block where arsonists torched six houses Guyton had turned into art objects between 2013 and 2014.
“After the fires hit, we decided we’ve got to to secure the legacy of what Tyree has done,” said Jenenne Whitfield, the executive director of Heidelberg. “The Numbers House is just the kickoff.”
The ultimate goal, she said, is to raise $3 million by the end of 2018. Long-term ambitions include renovating the nearby Dotty Wotty House into a museum to showcase Guyton’s art.
Guyton announced in August that he would slowly start dismantling the freestanding elements of his world-famous installation of whimsical-found objects on Heidelberg Street, though what will take its place is still unclear — even to the artist himself.
“I’m going to do something the world doesn’t expect me to do,” Guyton said. “I’m not sure what that is yet, but the only way to find out is to do what I’ve always been afraid of — to take it apart.”
The hope, Whitfield added, is to gradually convert one individual’s art installation into an arts-focused community with many stakeholders, one capable of tackling some of the social ills that plague the poor, east-side neighborhood.
“From now till 2018,” she said, “we’re going to complete the dismantling. By the time we finish, hopefully we’ll have in place the makings for a new arts community or community association.”
Guyton founded the Heidelberg Project in 1986 with his grandfather, artist Sam Mackey. The undertaking — originally as much social protest as artistic endeavor — celebrated its 30th anniversary this summer.
In terms of fundraising, Whitfield noted they’re already well along toward their $100,000 goal. Just last month, the project received $22,500 for work on the Numbers House from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA).
Its last resident, the elderly Thelma Woods, asked Guyton to decorate her house in the 1990s, and specifically said she wanted it to remain part of the project after her death. The artist complied, painting and stapling numbers all over the white clapboard structure.
The house, which currently serves as the project’s welcome center and small gallery, suffered smoke damage in a 2014 fire. The roof, covered by a blue tarp, is full of holes, and there’s water damage in all the first-floor ceilings.
As with many old Detroit homes, its plumbing and electrical systems need a complete overhaul. There are also plans to expand the house onto the vacant lot next door.
Once completed, the house will also house the Heidelberg offices, and possibly an artist-in-residence program.
“You’ve got to admire their efforts,” said John Bracey, MCACA executive director. “It’s been a rough couple years for them, but they’ve got a plan and are moving forward. The Numbers House is a really good first step. It’s tangible, and something to build on.”