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The Unauthorized Transformation of the Heidelberg Project

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There has been yet a ninth fire at the internationally acclaimed Heidelberg Project (HP). People write to us from all over the world in absolute horror at what has taken place over the last 11 months. You can be sure that the entire Heidelberg Project family has felt the same way.

After this latest fire and the complete demise of the Party Animal House installation on March 7, I walked around the entire day in a stupor. I mechanically carried out tasks as well as I could, and then I needed to escape. My mind whirled with thoughts of how the work we have been building for 28 years was being erased, right before our eyes. I began thinking about what our neighbors, friends and supporters around the world must be thinking. "Where is the security? Why can't the fire department do something? What is the ATF doing? Is this a larger conspiracy? Why is Detroit burning?" I then began asking my own questions. "Why is a work of art that brings so much joy being destroyed? What's in the mind of a person (people) to cause such destruction? What about their pain... or...was it pain? Perhaps the destroyer(s) felt joy in this destruction. Who's to say, right?"

This latter thought began to take me to a place where I began to see, really see, how the unauthorized transformation of the Heidelberg Project was directly addressing a question often asked by Tyree, "What is art today in the 21st century?" If one man saw art through the reconfiguration of recycled materials, is it also possible to see another form of art through its destruction by fire? Tyree says yes! "It's a new canvas, a new day and a new beginning."

Tyree calls his art a medicine. If this is the case, then what is the sickness? "I am opening up the minds of all people to help them to realize the possibility of change," says Tyree. I agree that there certainly is a perpetual cycle of hopelessness in the Heidelberg Community, but Tyree says it's deeper than that. I know what he means: Detroit is a microcosm for the world, but change for many is scary and sometimes violent, as we have recently witnessed with the fires.

If we are truly recycling the minds of the people, we are getting a firsthand demonstration of what is in the minds of many. It can be said that the Heidelberg Project is bringing out the best and worst in people -- extremes with no shades of gray. Imagine art serving such an influential purpose! In this way, Heidelberg is like a mental or spiritual medicine. When administered to the arsonist, for example, the affect was an upset stomach and regurgitation, figuratively speaking of course.

If you have ever wondered how we continue to push this rock up the hill, I ask that you consider a few principles that we have come to understand. Think about the process involved in the operation of a washing machine -- agitation. Think about what gives us light -- negative and positive charge. Finally, think about what builds muscle -- resistance. In other words, opposites or friction is what compels change.

Remember, the Heidelberg Project was partially destroyed in 1991 and again in 1999 at the hands of city officials. Each time, the Project came back stronger. Now, we experience partial destruction by fire -- the phantom arsonist(s) -- and I wonder... what will be next? If you ask Tyree, he will reply, "I have to let it speak to me." However, if you look closely, you will see a new theme already emerging.

Here is what I know: Three times the Heidelberg Project was partially destroyed, but as I deepen my thinking a message is becoming clearer as each day passes. I would say without a doubt, that the Heidelberg Project is an authentic demonstration of the power of the human spirit -- whether by creation or destruction!

After all, Tyree Guyton's transformation of Heidelberg Street was unauthorized, too!