Heidelberg Project fire devastation won't deter founder

Detroit artist faces more destruction at his Heidelberg Project after another fire


DETROIT – The flames burned so big and so bright it lit up the night sky. 

Just after 3 a.m. Thursday fire made the house on Mt. Elliot unrecognizable. You only knew it was a part of the Heidelberg Project from the stuffed animals watching across the street.

Video: Sky 4 captures images of 'Penny House' fire

No amount of water could save the structure.  Detroit firefighters could only control the burn. The smoke and embers were so thick -- it looked like snow falling from the sky. Watching nearby was the project's founder, Tyree Guyton, taking pictures of what was once known as the Penny House.

Geronimo Patton has volunteered for the Heidelberg project since its inception.  He takes photos of Guyton's creations. Lately, his photos have captured nothing but devastation.

The Heidelberg project has been the target of arsonists recently.  Last week a fire destroyed the "House of Soul".

IMAGES: Heidelberg Project's 'House of Soul' burns

Since May, the Project has been hit by two other arsons and two attempted arsons.

Tyree Guyton, the Heidelberg Project's founder, tells Local 4 that the "Penny House" was going to be turned into offices for the project.


Statement From Heidelberg Project Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield

The Heidelberg Project is internationally reviewed as a fertile ground for creating art from existing fragments; the evidence of waste, consumption and greed.   For nearly three decades Tyree has led the cause to reach across economic and geographical boundaries to bridge cultural differences through artistic expression. He is raising awareness for the power of "art as medicine" in a community that has been devastated.  Ill-health, under-employment, dismal environments, apathy and crime are the fallout of a post industrial era.  People are hurting leaving them in a state of hopelessness, despair and destruction of which Standard medicine cannot cure.

The HP is a sacred battle ground that has withstood damage by bulldozers and now WILLFUL destruction by fire.  However we must preserve and protect the ongoing creative and spiritual contribution of The Heidelberg Project.  If we can't get justice from our city, we must stand for justice.  We must stand in defiance of evil! 

As we try and wrap our head around this we remember that it has been said everything happens for a reason.  Maybe the old is making room for the new. However we are certain that the Heidelberg Project will propel to a new and even greater Heidelberg Project and a new promise for the future of Detroit. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

Previous fires destroy other house

Earlier this year, the project's OJ (Obstruction of Justice) House was set on fire, twice -- in May and October.


--Obstruction of Justice house

They're being investigated as arson, but no arrests have been made.

In 1991 and 1999, the city of Detroit ordered the demolition of some of the homes.

The OJ House was the oldest house installation since the last demolition.

The project has become a tourist destination and offers community programs in art and education.