More Suspected Arson at Detroit’s Heidelberg Project

The Taxi House after the fire. Photo: the Heidelberg Project, Detroit.

More bad news for Detroit’s beloved Heidelberg Project: The open-air art project that transformed a row of abandoned Detroit homes into colorful themed art installations through paint and the assemblage of found objects has been the victim of yet another suspected arson attack, the 12th fire in the last 18 months.

Started by Tyree Guyton in 1986 to help revitalize a city hard-hit by urban decay, the Heidelberg Project has since become a haven for artists. During the 1990s, the city razed several Heidelberg properties. Now the project faces a new, anonymous threat, despite attempts to set up on-site surveillance. The site, one of artnet News’ suggested art pilgrimages (see “10 Exotic Art Pilgrimages To Take, To Dream Of, For Summer“), was recently added to the Cultural Landscape Foundation‘s annual Landslide, a list of at-risk land-based art sites (see “Are These 11 American Art Landscapes Worth Saving?“).

The Heidelberg Project, Detroit. Photo: Ellenm1, via Flickr.

The Heidelberg Project, Detroit.
Photo: Ellenm1, via Flickr.

The most recent attack targeted the Taxi House on Mt. Elliot at the end of Heidelberg Street in a fire started late Saturday night. Fortunately, only the back side of the house was damaged, and the fire department was able to control and extinguish the blaze, aided by recent rain that had left the wooden structure damp.

Despite this latest set-back, project organizers remain undeterred, with one member, Geronimo Patton, telling CBS Detroit that “stopping the Heidelberg Project is like stopping the wind from blowing—it can’t be done.”

The fire comes roughly a year after a one-month stretch that saw four Heidelberg properties burned to the ground. “As we have been taking time to reflect on that chaotic period, we have been repeatedly reminded of the love we received from all of you,” wrote project organizers in a statement released on Facebook. “We know one thing better than ever: ‘You can’t burn a vision.'”

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