Heidelberg Project brings arts education to life in Detroit schools

Heidelberg Project’s Partnership with Four Detroit Public Schools Brings Transformative Program to Detroit Students

DETROIT —The Heidelberg Project and four Detroit public schools are piloting a first of its kind program that will use art to empower and inspire students to be change agents in their community. 

The Heidelberg Arts Leadership Academy (HALA) serves Detroit students in grades 4-12 to explore art as a tool for social change, self-expression and community healing. HALA, launched in 2018, will serve over 100 students at Martin Luther King High School, Southeastern High School, Marcus Garvey Academy and Cesar Chavez Academy East. 

“Using art as a catalyst to change lives is the very foundation of what we do at the Heidelberg Project,” said its President and CEO Jenenne Whitfield. “The Heidelberg Arts Leadership Academy is one way that we are investing in kids and in Detroit’s future. This program fills a critical need in Detroit schools that have seen a significant reduction or complete elimination of arts education funding.”

The groundbreaking HALA program is the sole source of arts education for students at Southeastern High School and Marcus Garvey Academy. It serves a critical enrichment program for students at Martin Luther King High School and Cesar Chavez Academy East. 

“The importance of arts education is paramount to the development of the whole child,” said Southeastern High School Assistant Principal  Alan Washington. “The Heidelberg Project is an iconic Detroit community arts organization and the partnership with Southeastern high school will allow our students to appreciate the history, significance and richness of the arts in the city.”

The HALA program was cofounded and designed by three women that specialize in classroom education and programming, curriculum design, arts advocacy and community partnerships. HALA includes three, nine-week sessions of in-school or after school classes that connect students to a network of resources that include artists, organizers, entrepreneurs, and tech innovators to cultivate student potential and help build leadership skills. The classes include:

  • Art Through Hip-Hop where students use album covers to explore art as a tool for social change and artistic expression.  
  • Art Speaks: Mural Project in which students collaborate with a local muralist to create a school-based mural that highlights an issue in the student’s local neighborhood or school community.  Students also visit visited 11 Detroit area murals and met with Heidelberg Project founder Tyree Guyton as part of the course. 
  • Writes of Passage where students report and write about social change within their community to create a zine of editorial poems, short stories, drawings and photography.

“We feel like this program is our calling," said HALA cofounder Keisa Davis. “The Heidelberg Project was our inspiration and our backgrounds created the perfect combination of experience to bring this program to life.” 

READ MORE: Heidelberg Project leads new arts program at 4 Detroit schools (Crains Detroit) 

READ MORE: Heidelberg Project begins offering art classes at Detroit public schools (MetroTimes) 


Founded in 1986 by artist Tyree Guyton, The Heidelberg Project is a Detroit-based community organization that uses art as a catalyst to breathe new life into the community, transforming what others saw as trash into public, outdoor art installations. The nonprofit also offers free art programs to thousands of children in the neighborhood and at Detroit and suburban schools. In August 2016, Guyton announced Heidelberg 3.0, a new vision to transform his childhood neighborhood from an arts installation driven by one man into a self-sustaining arts and culture village.