I was just sitting around at my Grandparents house and my Aunt came over and told me she had some free time to explore Detroit with me. After some quick Google searches, the standard touristy things came up, but we wanted to experience something unique and different. My Grandpa quickly chimed into our conversation, “go check out the Heidelberg Project downtown!”

Described online as an “outdoor art space with eclectic exhibits”, my Aunt and I thought this certainly fits the bill of what we were looking for, perfect! Within minutes we left the burbs of Detroit to head downtown and check it out…

Heidelberg Street

We drove up to the cross streets of Heidelberg and Ellery and it didn’t take long before we saw a mixture of funky and varied art scattered about the entire street and surrounding lawns. And there we were, The Heidelberg Project!

Brightly colored graffiti and art installations created from recycled materials and found objects from around Detroit fill the area. The project was started by artist Tyree Guyton and his Grandpa in response to seeing his neighborhood decaying. He took  it upon himself to create an outdoor art environment in his own backyard back in 1986, the year I was born 🙂 Thirty years later, Tyree’s passion and continued hard work has kept the area alive, evident by the thousands of tourists and locals alike that visit. 

“Each work of art is carefully devised to tell a story about current issues plaguing society.”  – The Heidelberg Project

As soon my Aunt and I got out of the car, we noticed a few themes right off the bat that caught our attention. There are a number of differing colored clocks and signs that say “You” on them near globes. As we walked down Heidelberg Street, we observed these and wondered what could all of these represent? 

It wasn’t long that we were walking before we heard “Welcome ladies!” from none other than Tyree Guyton himself! As luck would have it, Tyree was there to welcome us and he asked if we had any questions for him! Of course our questions poured in, why are there so many clocks, You signs, and polka dots? What do they mean!? Tyree turned the questions back on us, what did we think they meant? Why do we think they are there? After brainstorming various theories, we weren’t far off from discovering that each piece of art symbolizes our society’s diversity. The best part about visiting the Heidelberg Project is that each piece of art is thought-provoking and has a deeper meaning than what initially meets the eye.

My favorite pieces were the You signs near globes. After discussing further with Tyree and my Aunt, we walked away realizing they send a message that in order to change the world, you must start with You. Reflecting on this and watching Obama’s farewell speech this week, The Heidelberg Project is a perfect example of how one man took it upon himself to make positive change in his local area.

“I’m asking you to believe—not in my ability to create change, but in yours.” – President Barack Obama

It’s so important now more than ever to believe that you CAN create change. Tyree is just one of so many powerful and amazing examples that We Can. Meeting an artist like Tyree in person was so inspirational. Here’s a man who has spent his life making positive impact through leveraging his artistic talents. His neighborhood, the street he grew up on was falling apart, simply decaying and it was not a safe area to be in Detroit. He took it upon him self to redevelop his street from inside out and it is now an example of inspiration and hope. 

Both my Aunt and I really appreciated our visit and enjoyed speaking with Tyree. Since I’m a lucky girl, Tyree agreed to take a photo with me 🙂 here we are “enjoying a cup of tea”! I give major props to Tyree for leveraging his artistic talents to make dramatic positive change in the city of Detroit. What started as a day of exploration turned into a meaningful experience. Tyree challenged both my Aunt and I to think outside the box and we both walked away really appreciating our time with him and his work.

Sending a huge thank you to the Heidelberg Project and Tyree for proving we have the ability to create change!

You can read more about the Heidelberg Project’s efforts including their mission and vision statement here.