Jenenne Whitfield

(Detroit) Executive Director, The Heidelberg Project

Big Idea:
Recycling the human spirit
The Heidelberg Project: an open-air art project and Detroit’s own Ghetto Guggenheim! Nine attacks of arson and two partial demolitions…no problem! Discover the magic and mystery of Heidelberg’s staying power. Explore the dynamic 28-year journey of art as a vehicle for change. Reconfigured recycled materials form the elements of the canvas and become a metaphor for recycling the human spirit. Find out why folks from over 140 countries have visited and why the mission of turning vacant homes into art with and for urban residents is such a lightning rod.

Prior to her involvement with the Heidelberg Project, Jenenne Whitfield had a successful career in banking. In 1993, she took a wrong turn and drove down a polka-dotted street through a colorful chaos of paint and people, and asked a paint-spattered man, “What is all this?”

The street was Heidelberg Street in Detroit, Michigan. The man was artist Tyree Guyton. What he told her changed Jenenne Whitfield’s life.

Under Whitfield’s direction, the Heidelberg Project has expanded its goals to include acquisition and restoration of property in the Heidelberg area as well as the creation of community art and education programs. Her enthusiasm and efforts have won increasing support and respect for this often-controversial endeavor.