One of the highlights of a Detroit art tour is the outdoor work-in-progress art environment that is The Heidelberg Project. Started in 1986 by Tyree Guyton, the houses on Heidelberg Street have fantastically painted exteriors, and also feature site-specific installations of found items. Each house has a readily understandable theme--dots, numbers, pennies, stuffed animals. The aesthetic is fun, playful, handmade, and yet also primitivist and primal, appealing to children and art enthusiasts alike.
A stroll down Heidelberg Street’s polka-dotted lane includes a visitation with Miss Otila of the Yellow House. Here, visitors can sign-in to the 'guest book' for the neighborhood by tagging the yellow façade of her house for a small donation. She also appears to be a rather savvy digital media marketing guru, quick to point out that Yellow House has a digital presence, and that images of signatures are uploaded onto the Yellow House’s Facebook page.
As an attempt to transform an inner-city neighborhood into a safe(r) space for community residents, The Heidelberg Project is testament to the potential healing power of art.