Heidelberg Project tribute rises
Detroit — When arson ruined several of his creations, Heidelberg Project artist Tyree Guyton and dozens of dedicated volunteers vowed to rebuild.
"We said we're not going to sit down and let it go away," Guyton said. "This is plan B."
On Saturday, work continued on a tribute to the "House of Soul," one of the art installations that was burned down. The vinyl-record clad house was torched in November. Dozens of United Auto Workers members and other volunteers came together to build atop the foundation of the building, literally raising up the walls from the ashes.
"We're going to show the world what we're made of," Guyton said.
Over the past year, several Heidelberg Project creations have been destroyed or damaged by fire, including the "House of Soul," "Clock House," "War House," "Penny House," "Numbers House," "Obstruction of Justice House" and the "Party Animal House."
The ongoing arson investigation has yet to yield any new information, said Donald Dawkins, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Friday.
Back in June, organizers for the Heidelberg Project upgraded the outdoor area with a solar-powered security and surveillance system. After securing $54,000 through online fundraising and other donations, the nonprofit had 10 surveillance cameras and several solar-powered streetlights installed in the two-block art project.
The equipment allows group to monitor the area from its central office.
Early Sept. 18, a fire broke out at the Detroit Industrial Gallery, just down the street from the Heidelberg Project. The house is decorated with figurines, placards and was painted different colors by artist Tim Burke.
Guyton said the fire was arson and that he considers it an attack on the project as whole.
"I've encouraged him, don't stop," he said. "You've got to become courageous."
The Heidelberg Project dates to 1986, when Guyton and his late grandfather, Sam Mackey, started nailing found objects onto abandoned houses as an act of social protest and artistic expression.
Organizers have been working on the "House of Soul" tribute since April. In front, a cross with the words, "Soul Never Dies" stands guard, with 45s hanging by strings. Builders are working to make the memorial mobile, with a roof that can change directions.
"It's a mobile installation so we can move it around," project supervisor Joe Auito of Port Sanilac said. "So you can say, 'I saw that yesterday.' But did you see what it looks like today?"
The memorial will be moved to the University of Michigan in the spring as part of an art exhibit honoring the 30th year of the Heidelberg Project. It's just another chance to raise awareness of the neighborhoods of Detroit, even as downtown continues to gain in popularity and investment, said Guyton.
"In order to save the city, you've got to first save the people," Guyton said. "I'm creating hope and possibilities."