Friday, March 7
DETROIT (AP) — A house covered in stuffed animals and dolls that was a key part of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit became the latest casualty Friday in a 10-month string of suspicious fires that has devastated much of the long-running interactive outdoor art installation.
The home known as the "Party Animal" house or "Doll House" was destroyed by a fast-moving fire that crews responded to around 3 a.m. No injuries were reported in the blaze that brought much of the house to the ground. An adjacent home was damaged.
The Heidelberg Project has been the target of at least eight suspicious fires since May. There have been no arrests, but local and federal officials are investigating and Heidelberg Project staff members have stepped up security procedures.
"Certainly, there's something happening here beyond a series of accidents," city arson investigator Lt. Joseph Crandall said Friday morning, standing beside the charred ruins of the house.
It had been a few months since a fire struck one of artist Tyree Guyton's installations, a lull Crandall said gave hope to fire officials that "the problem had been resolved." But now questions are returning about who might be targeting the project and why.
A message seeking comment was left Friday with Jenenne Whitfield, the project's executive director.
"We'd hoped we would never have to say this, but the Party Animal house is gone. We are beyond grateful that our neighbors are safe this morning," read a post Friday on the Heidelberg Project's Facebook page. "We are learning as much as we can right now from investigators and the smaller cameras we did have in place. We will release a statement once we know more."
Guyton and his compatriots have vowed to make more art and overcome the assault on the project, which he founded on Detroit's east side in 1986 as a response to urban decay. The two-block area became famous over the years for creating art using shoes, clocks, vinyl records, stuffed animals and other found or discarded objects.
It initially was viewed as an eyesore by city officials, who demolished parts of it at various points in the 1990s. It since has found its way into cultural and public acceptance and now attracts tourists from across the country and gets a seal of approval from the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.