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30-Year-Old Folk Art Project Remains a Constant in a Changing Detroit

The Heidelberg Project offers a different experience every visit. On a blindingly blue and gold fall day, the trees lining Heidelberg street carry heavy canopy, the leaves brown and gold and green and yellow. People walk slowly among the old homes, pausing often to look at new displays. Some of the visuals competing for attention include a fence covered in hundreds of shoes, a park bench made of reclaimed golden oak, circles in sage and indigo and dusty pink on the blacktop of the street itself. The people visiting, mostly white, take pictures of everything, sometimes with expensive cameras, mostly with their cell phones. On a Sunday just before Halloween, a woman photographs a girl of nine or ten. The child has long fingerless gloves and makeup that makes her look like a waif in a gothic novel. She poses against the massive chartreuse fence surrounding artist Tim Burke's sculpture garden, which takes up at least three residential lots on the street. Burke makes art with salvaged building materials, discarded industrial supplies, and actual bits of old Detroit: some of the tiles inside his studio come from the old YWCA, one of the city's first integrated institutions. The tile is Detroit's iconic Pewabic tile, world famous in arts-and-crafts design.

The project is more important now than ever before >>