Wednesday, April 6, 2011

017: The Heidelberg Project

From their website:

"The focus of the Heidelberg Project is rooted in the need to improve the under-resourced and horribly blighted Detroit community where the project was founded.

We continue this mission, as we began, by providing hope and inspiration to local children through art and education programs and hands-on workshops.

The HP works with neighborhood children to educate them on art, community and environment. These children walk to school past burned-out houses, rubble, debris, crime and decay. Our purpose is to offer them another view, another perspective - to positively change the environment the children see every day. In the process, we help build self-esteem, encourage cooperation and foster a sense of pride in their community. The HP continues to work with local students throughout Metro Detroit through the ACE2 program and guided tours."

images from: the heidelberg project: home sweet home
Dustin Downing

The Heidelberg Project is one of Detroit's most famous public works of art. It has been lauded for transforming the area in which it operates, making it a much safer neighborhood, and for inspiring the creation of ACE2 which works with local student's to supplement their educations with art related curriculum. As a believer in collective public art, I can get behind the motives for creating the HP. I understand how painting polka dots on an abandoned building somehow makes it less frightening and affixing stuffed animals softens the facade of a burnt out home and makes it more tolerable. I have to question, however, how this kind of art which draws attention to the problem with out proposing a sustainable solution really effects the quality of life in the city. Yes, the Heidelberg is safer, but only because we have made a spectacle out of the problem. The captivated tourist is staring at amazement at the same type of pornographic imagery he or she sees in Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre's Ruins of Detroit. In Detroit, at this moment, anything may be, possible; however, we have a responsibility as designers to consider the impression our work makes on the city and its power to act as a catalyst for change and not as a neon sign pointing to its problems.

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