Now in its 26th year of existence, the Heidelberg Project is an open air art project. For two blocks in the heart of an urban community on Detroit’s East Side, you can see everyday objects that have been tossed aside (think everything from stuffed animals to washing machines) repurposed in a vibrant community-based art installation. Using art to provoke thought, promote discussion, inspire action, and heal communities is the mission.
An exhibit in the same vein of creativity as Heidelberg is Philadelphia’s Magic Garden, a community art project put together by Isaiah Zagar. City dwellers bring cherished objects, like broken pieces of pottery or dishes, to be used in the display. Occupying lower South Street in Philly, Magic Garden is much more organized than Heidelberg. I don’t think that is either good or bad. Art is subjective. And each brings its own unique gift to the community.
The Heidelberg feels gritty and chaotic, as if you can jump right in and start adding on, letting the art flow out of your soul. While it enrages the OCD side of me that wants clean lines, order, and items in their proper place, it can leave you with the feeling that there is creativity inside of you that can come out at any time. You can feel the soul of the area residents as they express the sweet and the sour of life.
The neighborhood in Detroit that houses this exhibit is a functioning urban neighborhood. As visitors milled around the exhibits and took photographs of sidewalks with polka dots and a two-story house covered on the outside with stuffed animals, residents went about their usual mid-week afternoon business, returning from errands, the beauty parlor and coming home from work. Art and life collide in Detroit at the Heidelberg Project.
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