Special Statement from Heidelbeg Project Executive Director RE: Number House vandalism, recent break-ins

See the official press release here.

Video footage from the Number House break-in on Nov. 3rd can be found  here.

Video footage from the Number House break-in on Nov. 3rd can be found here.

We have never done “easy” at the Heidelberg Project. What began as a curatorial intervention to create a new conversation in an otherwise forgotten neighborhood, is now regarded as one of the most influential art environments in the world. We are using art as a catalyst to tackle issues that are largely ignored. Our neighborhood doesn’t benefit from big sports teams, or amazing theatre shows. We don’t have developers in bidding wars to open new businesses. What we have are neighbors who are part of the “other Detroit” that still lacks access to the means to survive, thrive and change for the better.

As visitors from all over the world flock to see the inspiring work of Tyree Guyton, a few bad actors in our neighborhood have sought to prey upon those they perceive as more fortunate than themselves. We continue to work with the Detroit Police Department and the victims on an individual basis to turn over video surveillance footage and leads we get from our neighborhood connections. We have posted signs and warnings about securing your valuables and make sure that visitors understand the context of the area they are in. With every incident, we know that the victims get a sour taste about the Project and about Detroit and it hurts us too, deeply.

In the early morning hours of November 3rd, our Numbers House was broken into and vandalized. That day in the office, we watched the surveillance footage of four individuals kick in the door of the house that Tyree transformed to help kids learn to count. Vandals spent the next several minutes tearing apart the inside for reasons we can’t fathom. Our staff went through the stages of grief and anger not only for our losses but for the state of mind of perpetrators who felt that they had to steal joy from others. This is why our work is so important. Tyree always reminds us that we cannot heal the land until we heal the minds of the community. As we stated, our work is not easy but it is absolutely necessary!!

Through generous support from donors in 2013 we installed security cameras which aids us tremendously but the real change comes from proactive work. These circumstances helps us to understand just how important our presence is within the Heidelberg Project community. “Truth be told, we don’t know what we would do if it were not for the presence and positive activities of the Heidelberg Project,” says Moses a longtime community resident on Heidelberg Street.

Part of the mission of the Heidelberg Project is to change lives through art, but that goes beyond the creative process. Tyree makes a point of hiring from the community to help him clean and maintain the site. He engages the kids in the area and listens to them and values them in a way few others would. We encourage neighbors to engage with visitors to help them to understand the larger story that Heidelberg is a part of. We have been a part of this neighborhood, collectively for over 60 years. We understand and realize that it takes true commitment and determination not to give up just because it’s not easy. We are shifting the paradigm of this community from it’s roots. We are invested in changing it from the inside, as the outside world comes to bear witness to its success.

What we are up against:
• The McDougall-Hunt neighborhood is one of the most economically depressed areas in the city. Desperation to survive means that sometimes people chose to operate outside of the traditional economy to make ends meet.
• Visitors are sometimes lulled by the “safe” narrative of Detroit hotspots like Midtown, Downtown and the sports districts that benefit from increased police presence, and forget that the Heidelberg Project is a “renegade” destination that does not benefit from 100% support from City leaders. not aware of the dangers that are present in the neighborhood where the Heidelberg Project is located.
• Despite working with great officers who want to see top level change in the area, the Detroit Police Department is operating with limited resources to investigate these crimes.

We are doing everything we can to prevent these crimes from happening, but need your help with these efforts. If you see something, say something! Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to contact the special tip line at: 313-628-2900.