Heidelberg Project Gives Art Dog a Home

DETROIT—It already has a polka-dot house, a number house, and a penny house, so why shouldn’t the Heidelberg Project have a doghouse?

In fact, a doghouse, complete with its own canine resident, Congo, is the newest installation at Detroit’s Heidelberg Project, thanks to a collaboration between Heidelberg’s Art, Community, and Environmental Education program and Art Road Nonprofit, an organization dedicated to bringing art classes into Detroit schools.

The doghouse is constructed along a vacant stretch of grass where Ellery Street intersects with Heidelberg St. in the heart of the notorious community art project, which draws an estimated 275,000 visitors annually.

The doghouse effort is meant to draw attention to the important work of both of these programs and how they are bringing art instruction to schools that lack art programs.

Carol Hofgartner, the executive director of Art Road, oversaw the dog house build and recalls how the idea came to mind: “I thought, ‘Everyone knows about the work Tyree [Guyton] is doing on the outdoor art exhibit, but no one knows about the work they’re doing with children in schools. And since we’re doing the same thing, why not let people know through art.”

In an effort to reuse and recycle, the dog house is made with recycled lumber and wood from old pallets; the roof is covered with donated used toys painted by Detroit students as part of an Art Road class project. The outside of the doghouse will be painted by young residents of the neighborhood. Paw print pavers will lead the way to Congo’s new digs.

Art Road and ACE2 began working together six months ago for the Kids in The Hood Student Art Exhibit. As part of the exhibit, Art Road brought along Congo, the five-foot tall art dog made of paper mache. During the exhibit, they moved the dog to the Heidelberg Project visitor center to keep it out of the rain.

“And the house looked like a big dog house, so we thought why not just talk to Tyree, and he said ‘I love it. I can’t wait to see it. I can already see it on site.’”

Just one week after that conversation, doghouse construction is well underway – table saw buzzing, walls shaping up, volunteers painting, hammering and conniving.

Art Road board member Todd Patrick designed the doghouse and Doug Zieleniewski, another board member, is orchestrating the logistics of construction. Volunteers from Brightwing prime boards, and Art Road instructor Kimberly Holback and her three children paint pavers and boards.

This sort of quick and efficient collaboration isn’t always the case when two nonprofits with similar programs are competing for the same attention and dollars. But Art Road and ACE2 are all about sharing for the good of Detroit kids and the community.

No egos. No obstacles. No bureaucracy.

Hofgartner says that building in Heidelberg is an honor, but it’s even more about sharing a common mission. “The art is driving the conversation,” says Hofgartner, “which we hope will lead to more awareness and more funds.”

Through art, Tyree Guyton, has built such a sense of community at Heidelberg that you can’t help feel the overwhelming vibe. The doghouse adds more momentum to a place already buzzing with energy.

On the near-empty Ellery block, the doghouse installation has room to breathe, with opportunity a-plenty to create other art around it that also symbolizes bringing art back to schools.

In this open space there is also room to dream, and Hofgartner isn’t without her own dreamy vision of the future. “I’d love to have a whole field of tennis balls, painted tennis balls, you know for playing fetch. Wouldn’t that be wild?”


Donate, volunteer or learn more about these worthy organizations’ work at www.artroadnonprofit.org and www.heidelberg.org.

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