The Heidelberg Project and Hope

Running on one or two hours of sleep Tuesday morning I was dazedly trying to think what my next course of action would be. Track down some coffee for instance, but uncertain if there was a place to lock up my guitar and gi-normous suitcase. I guessed no, on account of the pack by the bunk of the other tenant. My guitar lay hidden under my blanket, looking like a lump of un-made bed. Jay the manager came in and introduced himself and made sure I was in fact the person who was scheduled to come in last night. He apologized for not being awake to great me, for sleeping through my entry but seems how everything was all good, it was all good! Jay then offered to take me to The Heidelberg project.

“Well, that’s one of the major reasons I came here, so yes, please!” I said.

And so, a little before 8 am I got to see The Heidelberg project in person. It’s only about a month shy since I heard of it in the first place. I was studying abroad in Liverpool and got to work with two amazing individuals, Martha and Guy, on a project that examined local art community art and the interactions. Martha interviewed an art curator in Liverpool; Guy-from-Detroit showed us The Heidelberg Project. The latter actually happened first in the brainstorming section and fueled the inspiration for our project. I interviewed a local playwright and poet, Patrick Graham, who I still remain in contact with and a local film director. It was amazing. It is amazing. The Heidelberg Project was the heartbeat, it was what made us global citizens but also civically minded – or at least that is the effect it had on me. The ways in which we interact with the arts and they with us is insurmountably compelling for me. And getting to do the interviews with creators, in the trenches doing what I really wanted to do, in particular with Patrick – well, it was very memorable and very inspiring.

You can read more about the Heidelberg Project history here (and you should!). Heidelberg round one for me was filled with anxiety, partly in anticipation, partly because Jay is an interesting driver. But not like you’d think – he drives small town style in a big city e.g. slow. It can cause some problems. Also Jay has been in Detroit for less than two years and took us down a one-way street, but that was after. “We” was my roommate, Eva from Germany, who is a librarian, and hostel neighbor Angela, who has lived in that neighborhood since she was nine years old and was able to navigate Jay back on the right path later. Angela will be the first to tell you that her friendship with Jay is a complicated one. Jay says Angela is a bit lonely – so it’s possible she doesn’t like him at all but needs to talk to someone. I don’t think that is the case however. Jay and Angela share the love of The Heidelberg Project in sincerity and were perfect guides to have for my first time.

Jay drove (very, very, appropriately slowly) the perimeter first, as is his tradition, he explained, and then we were able to get out a walk about. The place can sweep you to a modern art state of mind: why a wall of shoes spray painted white? To one of intense anguish emotion, the House of Soul, which was recently burned down by an arsonist but has already had art made into the rubble. The decapitate doll heads placed here and there are somewhat heart wrenching and disturbed. And the clocks. And the dots. A house covered in bright colored dots and clocks everywhere. Clocks painted on old wood or plywood and hung on the trees everywhere. And old stopped clocks hung on the trees everywhere. I was trying to find a pattern in the times but Angela said, “There saying time is important, and time is limited” (stopped clocks) “don’t take it for granted.”

The project is ongoing indefinitely and now has several contributing artists. I am not posting any photos (I didn’t take any photos the first time actually) because the artists ask for it not to be reused for purposes other than education or personal use. Personal use, meaning, you should just go and see for yourself! There is always something new to see, as Jay pointed out, either something new made or something you missed the first time. It’s an open air art museum. It’s a phoenix metaphor for Detroit. It’s art that has made the neighborhood a safer place to be (after the arson they – Tyree Guyton – have had more light(s) installed and security cameras). The place surges with emotion, whether happy, sad, or what does it mean or why that? Or (As is common with modern art) I could do that (but didn’t do that)!

There are a couple rows of rusted car hoods waiting to be made into a creation. There is a designated tree for donations. Jay leaves things there periodically. We congregated there to go back home again. Jay left some old shoes (there are lots of shoes used in the art). And I noticed one of the clocks hanging on a nearby tree, was working. “Well, so it is!” It was about five minutes slow, but operational. Working and Ticking.

Up next, Part 3: Things Aren’t What They Seem