Someone has been setting fire to houses in the Heidelberg Projectbilde

The Heidelberg Project is a public art project on the east side of Detroit created by Tyree Guyton.  I like it because it is not what you would expect to see in a city, especially Detroit.

I take that back.  Detroit is the city where you could expect to see the unexpected.  Where residents seem to be more free to express their creative sensibilities than in other places.   Hand-lettered signs, with ingenious word spellings.   Primitivist artwork (that’s what I would call it).  On stores, churches, signs for block clubs and community gardens.  A lot of people feel pretty free with a paintbrush.

Six houses have been set fire in the Heidelberg Project.  It just seems crazy that a person would be doing this, what Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield calls “madness”.

Years ago a man came to me during our time in the 80’s at Chicago Temple Corps on Chicago’s west side.  He said he was a retired security guard and offered to keep an eye on our building and property at the corner of Madison Street and Ogden Avenue.  This was before the current Temple building and the senior citizen apartment building were built.  Our corner then looked really rough, like a World War 1 battlefield.

Sure, I said.  A couple days later in a corner of our big sprawling lot appeared a cardboard structure.  Our security guard had built a home.  A rather grand one.  It did no harm so we left him alone.  True, we weren’t so certain about his mental stability.  Among other things, the secuity uniform he wore had definitely seen better days.

One day a group of boys walked past the guard’s home and threw a couple rocks at it.  He was inside, came out and yelled at them.  Later that afternoon, the boys returned and burned his cardboard house to the ground.

The next day a new cardboard home appeared.

I wish the Heidelberg Project the same Phoenix-like ability to rise from the ashes.  bildeCA5FE278

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