Arson engulfs art as Detroit's Heidelberg Project burns up
By Jeff Karoub, AP
December 16, 2013, 12:16 am TWN
DETROIT--On Detroit's Heidelberg Street, where a local artist turned the shell of a crime-ridden neighborhood into an interactive public art project, visitors coming to see the offbeat display are noticing something that's not part of the quirky exhibition: Yellow fire tape.
There have been at least eight fires since early May — the latest last Sunday — leading to questions about who might be targeting the installation known as the Heidelberg Project, and why they want to burn it down.
Founder and artistic director Tyree Guyton and his compatriots vow to carry on, make more art and overcome the assault on his vision, yet worry threatens the whimsy as the fires snuff out building after building.
Now, piles of rubble alternate with the three remaining house installations within the two-block area on the city's east side that's become famous over the years for the exhibition featuring shoes, clocks, vinyl records, stuffed animals and other found or discarded objects.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been investigating along with Detroit authorities. ATF spokesman Donald Dawkins said investigators have interviewed several people — some more than once — but he said there is no one yet that officials consider a suspect or person of interest. El Don Parham, chief of the Detroit Fire Department's arson unit, said it's far too early to speculate on a motive but believes that “someone is pinpointing” the Heidelberg Project.
“That makes it a greater concern for us — that someone is targeting this area,” he said.
Project officials announced this week a private donor is offering a US$25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the fires. That's on top of US$5,000 offered by the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee.
Guyton, often out working or cleaning up the site, has declined requests to speak with The Associated Press and likewise offered no comment to other media outlets in recent weeks. He told The Detroit News recently that he was “following the advice of the Greek philosopher Socrates: Be quiet and listen.”