FilterD Extra: Heidelberg Project dances with DOTS

Art and culture have become so crucial to a bold new narrative being written about 21st century Detroit that Jenenne Whitfield, executive director of the world famous Heidelberg Project, says she has a new way of explaining it to people.

"Do you mind if I get philosophical?" Whitfield says as we talk about the Heidelberg's upcoming Dancin' On The Street (DOTS) festival this Saturday. By all means, do. "It's spreading like a positive epidemic. You can now actually see and feel the resurgence in the city, and it's being led by artists."

We couldn't agree more. Please go on.

"Every 100 years a city has to reinvent itself. Detroit has been dominated by industry (for the past century), now the landscape has opened up and is being reshaped by people doing it from the grass roots."

Whitfield naturally points to the success of Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project as a source of the epidemic. In the 1990s, the project so bedeviled city officials that they attempted to have it demolished -- on several occasions. At the same time, international art critics and scholars were calling the installation a work of inspiration and raw genius. Guyton traveled the world with pieces of the living exhibition, while lawyers battled over its right to exist at home.

Art, culture, community and neighborhood engagement won that fight. Local institutions like the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra -- and a long list of others -- have championed the project and are partners and sponsors of this weekend's event.

"People now realize that Detroit's contribution to art and culture is its rawness and authenticity," Whitfield says. "We've been getting national and global attention for all the right reasons. Now, we're seeing more cooperation and interest on the local level. We've had great response from artists, sponsors and partners for this biennial event."    
Dancin' On The Street features eight hours of music from the Sun Messengers (with special guest Marcus Belgrave), a DSO quartet and salsa, hip hop, techno artists. There will be Japanese drumming, break dancing and fire art. The festival celebrates the diversity in the city with music, dance and a Taste of Detroit food stations, including Oslo, El Barzon, Wah-Hoo, Creole Gumbo and Floyd's BBQ. A Children's Corner features games, face-painting, magicians and other surprises for youngsters.

The best saved for last comes at 7:30 p.m., when all festival-goers are invited to get up and dance the Michael Jackson Thriller down Heidelberg Street, with coordination and direction from the Zone Dance Center.

The Heidelberg Project, a 24-year old nonprofit organization, is designed to improve lives and neighborhoods through art, and is the third most-visited cultural site in Detroit.

Half-price parking for festivalgoers is provided by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, available at the Max M. Fisher Music Center with shuttle service by Royal Transportation to and from the event. Go here for shuttle times and the performance schedule.

Dancin' On The Street is Saturday, Aug. 14, noon - 8 p.m. The Heidelberg Project is at 3600 Heidelberg St. on Detroit's East Side.

Walter Wasacz is FilterD editor for Model D. Send feedback here.

Read more articles by Walter Wasacz.

Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.
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