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Detroit - The Renaissance of America

Welcome to 21st century Detroit. The city has taken a major economic hit, but in a new film,'s Charlie Annenberg shows that grassroots art and culture will lead Detroit's renaissance. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the organizations that are driving the city's rebirth.


  1. Even before Detroit became the largest American city ever to declare bankruptcy, negative news about the city had been rampant for years. But chances are you've never heard of the Heidelberg Project. And if you haven't, then there's a whole world of positivity waiting to be discovered in the heart of one of America's greatest cities. Charlie Annenberg and the team traveled to Detroit to meet artists and community activists, and observe firsthand how they are revitalizing their city. Artist Tyree Guyton, founder of the Heidelberg Project are literally transforming the hard-hit neighborhoods by turning abandoned houses into living pieces of art. 
  2. The twenty-six-year-old Heidelberg Project is an open-air art environment, a community organization that uses art to improve people's lives and the neighborhoods in which they live. Guyton uses found objects and discarded materials to create sculptures, installations, paintings, and design elements as a way to use art to bring the community together. 
  3. As budget cuts cut deeper and deeper into arts education, the Heidelberg Project has established itself as a presence in Detroit's public schools. Students from all over the city come to the 3600 block of Heidelberg Street to tour the art environment and be introduced to the importance of art as a way to reshape their communities. The Project has several programs within the city's schools as well, supplementing the lack of arts education and nurturing emerging artists.  
  4. Turning a block of one of the most dangerous cities in the world into an art installation removes fear from people's minds and gives them a reason to visit the area. Showing youth that the city around them can offer something other than violence gives them the confidence and knowledge to pursue their dreams. Says Guyton, "[We're] opening up young minds, doors of creativity, and putting something in there that will live with them for a lifetime. I want to be part of the comeback of the great city of Detroit, and I do believe it's going to come back. If I could do just one little small thing to help the city to come, I've done my job." 
  5. The organization, for all it has done, is still fighting an uphill battle. Art installations have been bulldozed by the city. Guyton's goal of transforming the abandoned Brewster-Douglass Towers into a massive art project looks to be dead in the water, as the city has just announced plans to tear down the historic towers in 2013. 
  6. Yet the Heidelberg Project keeps looking towards the future. Their next goal is to renovate one of the buildings on Heidelberg Street and create an on-site place of operation for the organization, a learning center for youth and a meeting place for the community to be centered around.
  7. As important as it is, the Heidelberg Project is just one of many grassroots community organizations working to transform the city of Detroit. During his trip to Detroit, Charlie Annenberg met with legendary community organizer Yusef Shakur, who took Annenberg on a tour of some of Detroit's historic landmarks and neighborhoods. In building community and stopping violence in Detroit's hardest neighborhoods, Shakur is working to replicate his own personal transformation on a citywide scale.
  8. Detroit's Native Son: Yusef "Bunchy" Shakur OFFICIAL DOCUMENTARY TRAILER
  9. "Detroit has taken a lot of hard knocks," says Reverend Barry Randolph, pastor of the Church of the Messiah. "We were too dependent on manufacturing and didn't spend enough time to reinvent ourselves. Our greatest resource is our people. We're going to become the city of entrepreneurs."
  10. You can watch the film that came out of Annenberg's trip, Detroit - The Renaissance of America, online today at