It's time for Detroit to have a Heidelberg 3.0
Here's why the Heidelberg Project matters to the future of Detroit. When I first drove down Heidelberg Street in June 1993, I asked the artist: "What is all of this?" I was procrastinating about going back to work as a loan officer at then-Michigan National Bank; Tyree Guyton invited me to get out of my car and "check it out." One year later, I found myself blowing the dust off of an old computer to help him respond to correspondence he was receiving from all over the world.
As a businesswoman on the rise, I was surprised by my newfound diversion and realized that something had awakened in me that I hadn't felt since I was a child. From the start, it was challenging. Controversy, bulldozers and 12 arson attacks in recent years could all be viewed as innovation in the making, right? As you may have read more recently, plans call for dismantling the current iteration of the project, and conversations are underway for existing works to be placed in a collection or exhibition at one or more of the major museums in town. Meanwhile, though, the art is making room for a new, more comprehensive vision for which we are rallying support.
As we approached our 30th anniversary, we wondered what the Heidelberg Project's future would hold. We found ourselves grappling with the question, is the Heidelberg Project relevant to Detroit's changing landscape? A comment by one patron always plays in my mind. "There's nothing like it anywhere else in the world."
Today, the success of the HP and Tyree Guyton's vision can be validated. But, just as the city of Detroit is changing, so are the narrative and landscape of the HP. Based upon the successes that Tyree began 30 years ago, the HP is poised to transform from an arts installation driven by one man into an arts community that calls for the participation of many. This is what we call Heidelberg 3.0, an idea that can foster an expansive new future for the HP that builds new alliances with residents, artists, local universities, community groups, and government municipalities, all of whom can assist in building a new community of excellence through the arts.
Historically, Detroit can stake claim on being a city of innovators that led the nation with startups, game-changing inventions and economic vitality. Today, art and unconventional thinking have become essential elements for healthy growth in a city that is now taking great leaps forward. And, true to our history, it is reasonable to think that the rise of Detroit can pave the way for renewal in other cities around the nation.
The Heidelberg Project is a game-changing invention in the 21st century. For 30 years, it has brought diverse people together, serving as inspiration for a generation of innovators in Detroit and across the world.This original, ever-changing outdoor art environment embodies what is special and fascinating about our city. It may be popular to replicate the successes of other cities, but I believe that we will be much further ahead (and happier) if we look within and give Detroiters an opportunity to be part of the comeback that they have fought for.
The Heidelberg Project is important to Detroit because for 30 years it steadfastly reminds us of our originality, our innovation, our grit and our resilience. As conversations about equity and inclusion and how we rise together as a city endure, the Heidelberg Project is not only relevant but a critical example of how embracing our own can change the game! In essence, we are striving for Heidelberg 3.0 to be a new vision (with some of the old for historic purposes) that is embraced and served by a wider constituency.