Heidelberg Street, a Diamond in the Ruff in Detroit

Copyright Jeff Ball 2010

The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project in Detroit, Michigan. It was created in 1986 by artist Tyree Guyton and his grandfather Sam Mackey (“Grandpa Sam”) as an outdoor art environment in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on the city’s east side, just north of the city’s historically African-American Black Bottom area. The Heidelberg Project is, in part, a political protest, as Tyree Guyton’s childhood neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots. Following his stint in the Army, Tyree Guyton described coming back to Heidelberg Street. He was astonished to see that the surrounding neighborhood looked as if “a bomb went off”.

At first, the project consisted of his painting a series of houses on Detroit’s Heidelberg Street with bright dots of many colors, and attaching salvaged items to the houses. It was a constantly evolving work that transformed a hard-core inner-city neighborhood where people were afraid to walk, even in daytime, into one in which neighbors took pride and where visitors were many and welcomed. Tyree Guyton worked on The Heidelberg Project every day with the children on the block. He and director Jenenne Whitfield gave lectures and workshops on it around the country. Their main goal was to develop The Heidelberg Project into the city’s first indoor and outdoor museum, complete with an artists’ colony, creative art center, community garden, amphitheater, and more.

The effect of the Heidelberg Project is displayed through the development of Heidelberg Street. At the other end of the street, there are crumbling houses with lawns covered with waist-high weeds, rubble and rubbish, with no people in sight. [Wikipedia}

When I came across Heidelburg St. I knew I would have a connection. I love photographing the details of scenes like this. It’s like a treasure hunt to find imagery using color, composition and contrast. I also love this colorful few blocks in the middle of a very depressed area of Detroit.

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I am a fine art photographer in Denver, Colorado. My work runs the gamut from high-end fashion to the deconstruction of masculinity. My curiosity and appreciation for the many different methods art is created and perceived has led to a diverse expression. I find myself drawn to a multitude of different themes, mediums and how they all relate and object to each other. My work stems from a belief that art is in everything.

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