Detroit — One fire may be an accident, two fires a coincidence, but three fires — as in the case of the third Heidelberg Project to burn, the “Penny House,” and one would have to conclude that an arsonist or arsonists are methodically blazing the city’s controversial art works. The latest act of apparent violence to strike the Heidelberg Project, where another house burned Thursday, has stunned Detroit and its artistic community.
The Detroit Fire Department’s Arson Squad has apparently come to the same conclusion as they step-up the investigation into the destruction of the properties owned and created be internationally acclaimed artist, Tyree Guyton.
At the University of Michigan Museum of Art, director Joseph Rosa called the news heartbreaking. “The project has such an important history as a way to rethink the city and bring it back,” he said, noting that any number of other towns have studied Heidelberg as a way to reinvent distressed neighborhoods.
The off-beat art projects have also become one of the city’s most significant cultural attractions for locals and tourists alike. “I don’t know a visitor to Detroit with their eye on art who doesn’t go there,” said Nancy Sizer, director of the Detroit Artists Market.
“If we were to lose Heidelberg,” said Jerry Herron, dean of the Wayne State University Honors College who wrote part of “Connecting the Dots,” a 2007 history of the project, “we’d lose one of the most vibrant and creative responses to the desperate hardships that often attend our urban condition. Tyree quite brilliantly turned the refuse of an abandoned neighborhood into a reason to make people want to come and see and understand.”