From Ghetto to Tourist Attraction

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Healing through Creativity

What on earth would make 275,000 tourists a year visit a ‘ghetto’ in Detroit, Michigan?

Welcome to the Heidelberg Project. This two city-block outdoor art installation is in part a political protest, and in greater part a statement on how art can bring a community together to heal its marred identity.

After the 1967 Detroit Riot in which 467 people were injured and 2,000 buildings destroyed, many neighbourhoods never recovered. Decades later, buildings remained burned out and decayed.

In 1986, armed with bright paints and imagination, artist Tyree Guyton began work with local children to transform one such neighbourhood on Heidelberg Street. Abandoned houses became sculptures and vacant lots turned into outdoor galleries. The result became the Heidelberg Project. Here, creativity exploded onto buildings, streets, and sidewalks in colourful paintings, sculptures, and reclaimed community spirit. It also became an implicit criticism of the lack of government efforts.

Today, the community has a renewed sense of pride. Their neighbourhood is recognized as one of the most influential art environments in the world, and is visited by thousands annually. They have created a new vision of themselves, one which affirms their identity as creative overcomers.

Image source

Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Wake Up!

Plastic row houses cram themselves together into a Twinkie-Cream-Puff landscape.

Pale hues blend into the suburban creed of blasée. What do you stand for, you houses? Who are you? Do these questions mean anything to you? Do you even understand them?

Wake up! Take a can of crimson and splash it across your faces! Throw off your mass-produced identity and create one of your own. Come to life, you pastel creatures, before it is too late.

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Filed under Creativity, Writing

6 responses to “From Ghetto to Tourist Attraction

  1. I love your excitement for living with purpose! I lived in Toledo, Ohio, for more than half my life and am familiar with Detroit. Quite a beautiful exposition and statement to the City of Detroit and to the nation!

    • Yes, this one really got to me- taking the ruins and turning them into something special; transforming the community’s identity from ‘ghetto’ dwellers to dignified creators. And the fact that the change came from within, as Tyree is from the neighbourhood. How many other situations can this approach be applied to…

  2. V

    A transformation indeed!

    In Victoria (I’m not sure where else this happens and I’m not sure who does it) all of the power utility boxes are painting over with beautiful nature scenes. And when you look at it, you get lost in that scene, forgetting that it’s a power box you’re staring at. Other things I’ve seen are murals randomly painted along the bike trails. It’s so refreshing!

    I think art needs to take over cities and neighborhoods a little bit more.

    • Public art does make a city more livable, taking it away from its purely utilitarian functions and giving it that human touch we can connect to. I know of a small town that painted all its fire hydrants so they look like gophers. A little humour goes a long way.

  3. What colour and form can do! Breathtaking!
    Thanks for another step along the way:-)

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