Changing Detroit through art

By Katie Williams

At first glance, the corner of Mt. Elliot and Heidelberg looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. The houses are polka-dotted, splattered with numbers and adorned with stuffed animals. There are shopping carts and shoes hanging from the trees. The lawns are scattered with everything from a robot constructed from car parts, to a toilet  with a political agenda and a Barbie car on a roller coaster track.

A diamond in the rough 

In the center of an average Detroit subdivision, two blocks refuse to be overlooked. When one steps onto Heidelberg street they become a part of an interactive ever changing art project, which is exactly what Tyree Guyton, the founder and artistic director, was aiming for when he started the Heidelberg Project in 1986.

The non-profit organization uses everyday discarded objects to bring color and creativity to the impoverished community, while providing art education for neighborhood children and an outlet for local artists.

“It’s unique, without a doubt,” said Amanda Sansoterra, emerging artist director and executive assistant to Tyree Guyton. “The art is fascinating, the people living the Heidelberg community are interesting and special. When people visit, all of these components are immediately recognized.”

Biennial Festival 

The Heidelberg Project is preparing for it’s ninth Biennial Festival, Detroit’s Got Talent, on Aug. 11. The festival starts at noon and will showcase artists in four categories: visual art, culinary art, music and performance. The event is free and open to the public.

The event’s artistic, directors sorted through artist’s résumés and personal statements in order to select the participants for the event. Each category will have a panel of judges who will provide insight and feedback for the artists.

Kate Monaghan is one of four artists selected in the music category. A Royal Oak native, she’s a folk singer-songwriter who released her first EP, “Fade,” in Oct. 2011. She has recently performed at the Majestic Theater and the American Civil Liberties Union of Metro Detroit benefit show in March.

“I’m really happy to have the opportunity to support such a great community organization that is working to transform neighborhoods and people through creativity. I really believe in that, as an artist and as a person,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to put myself and my music in front of a new audience.”

The event will also feature a children’s corner with arts and crafts and music activities for the day, including presentations by the Detroit Academy of Kinesthetic Arts.

Food trucks from El Guapo, Treat Dreams, Frank’s Anatra, The Green Zebra and Ned’s Travel Burger will also be present.

“There is something at our festival that will appeal to all, from different walks of life, whether you’re 20 or 75. It’s a family friendly environment, a huge celebration of community and a coming together through the arts, Sansoterra said.