This is an introduction video to the Heidelberg Project, which is an art exhibit in the urban community of Detroit’s East Side. The artist and creator, Tyree Guyton, uses everyday objects to create works of art on houses and in other neighborhood spaces. This art exhibit is recognized all over the world and is currently in its 27th year.
We will be showing this video and displaying pictures of the Heidelberg Project during our art festival.
Art is subversive. As such, it is strategic and dangerously good. We live in a generation that often rejects absolute truth as restricting and absolute authority as oppressive. Science, logic, reason, and theology still have a place in our society, but not as the final authority when it comes to truth. Instead, we also want to explore, to feel, to experience, and to piece together our own understanding of what is true and what is helpful. Art strategically allows and encourages that. In some transcendent way, art can bypass the mind and speak directly to the heart. It facilitates reflection and allows its audience to personalize their own understanding of meaning. As such, I believe it is one of the most strategic and powerful ways to speak truth to power, rebuild communities, and to perhaps recapture our sense of wonder and bit our own hearts in the process.
My sense of calling and purpose is to end poverty, hunger and homelessness. Yet 17 years ago I had the realization that it was not the scientist, politician, or pastor that was going to be most strategic in doing so. Rather, I believe it to be the artist, the actor, the poet, the screenwriter, the creatives in this world that will be most vital in capturing the heart of this generation and helping to reorient it toward a life lived for others. In 1999, while struggling as a starving artist and writer, I created an artist cooperative called Mad Romantic Poets to do just that. I’ve poured the last two decades of my life into organizing, mentoring, and investing in artists. I launched a global underground art project in 2001 called the Echo-Man Project to engage artists on every continent in a larger conversation about how they might find their unique place in changing the world. This year I finished a 15-year book project called Searching for the Echo-Man which uses art, story, and symbol to help artists and change agents explore our search for meaning, purpose, identity, and a place within the pages of a larger story.
One current creative expression of this is taking place in the Osborn neighborhood of East Detroit. I’ve helped to organize a group of artists in a series of public art projects on Gratiot and 6 Mile. I could use your help. This April, artists in Osborn will deck themselves in Hazmat suits, wrap up an entire block of abandoned, blighted storefronts in plastic, and “quarantine” the buildings to creatively address some of the structural issues that impact the poor in their community. The next day, community members will paint the entire block white, turning it into a blank canvas for community members to create upon. A series of community meetings will be held for community members to re:envision the space. Soon after, my core team of artists will lead teams of community members in their shared community visions on this block-long blank canvas.
This project will also be used to draw attention to and recruit participation in an Osborn Stakeholder Anti-Poverty Public Policy Group, an Osborn Anti-Poverty Summit and Coalition, and the Live in Osborn campaign to revitalize other public spaces in the Osborn community.
In a few weeks, I will be traveling to meet with artists and artisans in East Africa to discuss and explore creative relief efforts on the continent. In May, I will be evaluating anti-poverty efforts in South India for a month in hopes of translating some of these ideas into sustainable projects throughout the developing world and also in East Detroit. Artists play an incredibly important role in reshaping the discussion about poverty and social justice. I’m so honored to create change alongside of them.
Need some inspiration for your SJAF submission or just looking for something fun to do? Then look no further than The Carr Center. Located in the Paradise Valley district, the Carr Center looks to preserve the cultural arts through different programs, activities, and services made available to community members. Check out their website for upcoming exhibits and events.
We’re starting off the art fair this year with some collaborative art projects around the School of Social Work. This week we’ve been asking our peers to answer the question “What is social justice?” on a fabric square; the squares will later become a patchwork quilt displayed at the fair!
In our meeting on Monday, June 4, we talked about what social justice is, and gave examples. After the jump, see what committee members had to say.
One example that I can think of is food trucks that bring fresh produce to neighborhoods that don’t have access. That cuts out issues of access, distance and means. Removing barriers.
Personal Experiences & Struggles:
Art is a way to give people a voice. If it’s about recovery, immigration, equality, etc, people have a voice. It’s communication, too.
Processing pain, personal healing, and impacting others:
Not just for “us” – can be just for me. If I create a painting and it’s a reflection of my experience during a time of genocide or terror, this form of expression is a reflection of social justice. When you can share that with others, you can express more socially just ways. You can impact others.
Privilege and power
Not just equality, but also recognizing privileges and helping other people to have similar ones. My form of expression is athletics.
A women’s microsavings group in Burma decided to give a portion of their savings money to victims of Cyclone Nargis to start a microsavings program. The communities did not know each other, but they felt it was their duty to help in any way they could.
Challenge the dominant norm
Social Justice in art is a challenge to the dominant norm. It’s subjective, and it’s what you see. So it’s very inclusive. It lets people in.
Social justice and art connects with the research I’ve done. One of my particular interests is the Phillipino-American community. Giving voice to the experiences of a group of people who aren’t heard very often. How do we disseminate these stories? What about art as the way to disseminate the stories of groups that have been largely invisible. Oral histories, spoken word. The art becomes a way to give voice to stories, people, experiences that may not otherwise have access.
Tell us more about what social justice and the arts mean to you! Leave a comment below.
The School of Social Work Art Fair Committee is looking for visual and performance art submissions from local youth, students, faculty, and community organizations for its “ENGAGE. LIBERATE. HEAL | Social Justice and the Arts” event on July 23, 2011. The event is aimed at exploring how art can be used as a therapeutic tool and mechanism to promote social justice and/or change.
SHOW YOU WORK DURING THE ANN ARBOR ART FAIRS WEEKEND!