We’ve all heard about grassroots movements. They usually start with a whisper and slowly move forward, if well managed and supported, into a life of its own (eh, hem…Whole Foods, PETA, Greenpeace, etc.). When I heard about The Heidelberg Project, a two block, outdoor art environment, featuring fun and crazy-looking installations of everyday, abandoned, and leftover objects created by artist/movement leader Tyree Guyton, I was immediately impressed and inspired, as I am both a proponent of the arts and the reuse communities (or more appropriately, a major fan!).

Simply, Tyree started this project/movement in 1986, by identifying his seemingly forgotten urban community on Detroit’s East Side as a place in great need of hope, inspiration, positive interaction, and artistic expression and sharing of ideas.  Ironically, these qualities were already part of the community, but the “lightening rod” with which to collect this energy was missing. With the power of a thunderbolt, Mr. Guyton transformed Heidelberg Street’s rubbish into Renoir and crack houses into quirky ghetto galleries.

Today, known around the world as a witness to the power of creativity and how it has sparked the positive transformation of neighborhoods, the Heidelberg Project is expanding to other impoverished communities. As noted on, “It is the agenda of the Heidelberg Project to take Tyree Guyton’s artistic philosophy of social empowerment through art into the realm of urban design, and in doing so provide a template for other post-industrial ‘shrinking cities.’”

For more information and tours, please visit The Heidelberg Project website. Thumbnail and middle photo courtesy of John Baird, Video courtesy of

All photography by Skaie Knox, HomeJelly