The Heidelberg Project, bearing the name of the street on which it exists, was started in 1986 by Tyree Guyton. He was assisted by his grandfather, Sam (Grandpa) Mackey (deceased), and his former wife, Karen Guyton. Tyree was raised on Heidelberg Street and, at the age of 12, witnessed the tragic effect of the Detroit riots - from which he claims the City of Detroit never recovered. Though once racially integrated, many neighborhoods have become segregated urban ghettos characterized by poverty, abandonment, and despair.
Armed with a paintbrush, a broom, and neighborhood children, Guyton, Karen, and Grandpa began by cleaning up vacant lots on Heidelberg and Elba Streets. From the refuse they collected, Guyton began to transform the street into a massive art environment. Vacant lots literally became “lots of art” and abandoned houses became “gigantic art sculptures.” Guyton not only transformed vacant houses and lots, he integrated the street, sidewalks, and trees into his mammoth installation and called his work, "The Heidelberg Project", after its location on Heidelberg Street.
Despite numerous awards, the city demolished parts of the Heidelberg Project installation in 1991 and again in 1999. Still, the Heidelberg Project continues to exist, evolve, and grow - providing hope and inspiration to the local community and the community of the world.
Today the Heidelberg Project is recognized as one of the most influential art environments in the world.