Investigation: What the Heidelberg Project doesn’t want you to know

Heidelberg Office in Brush Park.
Heidelberg Office in Brush Park.

Part 1 of an in-depth look at the beleaguered Heidelberg Project.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

As the world-famous Heidelberg Project came under siege by an arsonist last year, the nonprofit organization that runs the outdoor art exhibit on Detroit’s east side was spending a vast majority of its shrinking budget on nine employees and a spacious office in Brush Park near downtown.  

Very little of its annual $200,000 budget was dedicated to the art project and its diminishing properties, an analysis of the nonprofit’s tax records shows. Of the 50 parcels in the two-block area, just four belong to the Heidelberg Project after losing homes to foreclosures.

The Clock House burned down in December.
The Clock House burned down in December.

Now authorities say the project’s artist, Tyree Guyton, and his wife, Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield, aren’t cooperating with arson investigators from the ATF and Detroit Fire Department after six of the eight art-studded houses were destroyed by arson since November.

“They are saying a lot to the public, but they haven’t been very cooperative,” according to a high-level fire official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. “We need to talk with them.”

Whitfield denies she and Guyton have stopped cooperating.

“Of course that is not true,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Why we would we do that?”

Jenenne Whitfield
Jenenne Whitfield

Whitfield, whose annual pay as executive director jumped from $1,000 in 2009 to $61,000 in 2012, declined to answer follow-up questions.

A Motor City Muckraker investigation has found that the Heidelberg Project has transformed from a volunteer-driven organization focused on art installations to one that spends more than $190,000 a year – most of its budget – on four full-time employees, three part-timers and two contract workers.

Tyree Guyton
Tyree Guyton

Even when contributions shrank from $595,000 in 2011 to just $193,000 in 2012, the nonprofit hired an additional three employees and spent more than $25,000 on office expenses and $27,000 on traveling. By contrast, the nonprofit spent less than $16,00o on direct program expenses, tax records show.

Since 2007, Wayne County seized in a tax foreclosure eight of the nonprofit’s properties, including its signature Party Animal House, which was intentionally destroyed by a fire on March 7.

Heidelberg officials argued the nonprofit was exempt from paying taxes.

Among the nonprofit’s employees are a marketing coordinator, special projects coordinator, site development manager, landscape designer and assistant director. They run an emerging artists program, workshops, education programs and tours of the Heidelberg.

According to tax records, the Heidelberg drained its savings on staff and expenses unrelated to the project site, spending $132,182 more than it had coming in from contributions in 2012. Indicative of the nonprofit’s questionable financial decisions, the Heidelberg spent $12,938 on a fundraiser that collected $13,550 – a return of $612.

Without a savings, the nonprofit, which operated with a bigger budget in 2010 with a single part-time employee, held an emergency fundraiser aimed at collecting $50,000 for the sole purpose of increasing security at the two-block art exhibit.

At the time of the Nov. 29 fundraiser, two of the project’s eight house installations had been destroyed by arson. By the time the fundraiser ended on Dec. 20, three more homes were intentionally burned down, leaving the project with three houses – none of which belong to the Heidelberg Project, records show.

Heidelberg before and after

Nevertheless, the nonprofit pledged to protect the installations – The Party Animal House, Polka Dot House and Numbers House – with $54,280 from the fundraiser and an additional $18,000 from the Erb Family Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

Trouble is, the nonprofit hadn’t developed a workable security plan by the fundraiser’s end on Dec. 20, despite the urgency following the breakout of arsons. While the “small and inexperienced organization” hashed out plans for cameras and improved lighting, Whitfield said, the Heidelberg spent more than $18,000 on a security guard whose hours were severely cut because the job “quickly became cost-prohibitive.” 

When the Party Animal House fire broke out, Whitfield said the project’s temporary security camera was damaged by the blaze and extreme cold.

“We are doing everything we can do,” Whitfield told me. “We’ve never done this before.”

Of the 50 parcels inside the two-block Heidelberg Project, the Heidelberg owns just four, according to property records.

Heidelberg_6274But you wouldn’t know it driving through the project, which is teeming with outdoor installations made from shopping carts, doors, shoes, boats, decorated cars, stuffed animals and old signs. Most of the exhibits are scattered across city property, which accounts for 80% of the parcels.

Guyton created the Heidelberg Project in 1986 after he lost three brothers to the streets. He wanted to brighten up the blight and call attention to the poverty and decay that still eat away at Detroit’s neighborhoods. Guyton slowly began decorating abandoned wood-frame houses with found objects and erected other installations in vacant lots.

Heidelberg_3661The project is now world-renowned and a popular tourist destination, attracting as many as 50,000 people a year, according to a study by the Center for Creative Community Development.

 “As tough as it is, a chapter is obviously closing, but it’s far from over,” Guyton said in a written statement after the most recent fire. “It’s a new beginning.”

The Heidelberg’s biggest contributors are the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation. 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Mike McGettigan

    Steve, I don’t understand your bias here. You write this article like you’re blowing some secret scandal wide open.

    The project employees are paying themselves money to live. They have to eat and wear clothes that are not falling apart. They pay for a space to store materials. They are not throwing money away on yachts, thousand dollar dinners and MC Hammer style statues. These are people who work with the community and now can afford a car and food, consistently.

    This isn’t an Ilitch project where we are paying millions of dollars for the privilege of it’s existence.

    These folks are not making much money. The arson isn’t generating funds for them. The ATF is supposedly watching the area. What if you had to donate all of your salary to protecting your workplace?

    At worst they come off as not the best planners in the world. They’re artists. They’re supposed to do art. It’s damn near impossible to earn a living as an artist in Detroit. The project has made an incredible impact worldwide and has made many people happy.

    Did they upset you in the past? Why do you have such a burning dislike for them?

  • Rik Lapham

    I realize I’m very late to the discussion, but I just found this site. I do not understand all these negative comments about Mr. Neavling. It seems to be common sense that any organization would NOT hire MORE employees with a shrinking budget. None of the comments address this unless I missed it. Steve – you should have long ago posted responses to at least some of the criticisms.

  • 1Joshua

    Guyton was nuts from Day One. He was not an artist, but a nutcase. Only in Detroit could a bizzaro fraud like Guyton be allowed to denigrate a neighborhood with trash, call it art, and get paid. He’s yet another example of barbarism rising as a result of capital, racism, and empire, run wild.

  • Angela WhiteHawk Potter

    I suggest the Tyree work on his public relations. He had not kept his promises to Ms. Head,who house was damaged in one of the fires,he promised banks to pay for the houses and now are in foreclosure and he treats those that are around the project like dirt. His behavior is erratic and he needs help. You can not create something from nothing especially if you need to own the property you work on.,

  • Circa53

    A scam seeking donations from not very intelligent donators to keep the city supplied with derelict (decorated) houses that should all be razed. The (project) adds nothing to the city.
    The article proves it’s just a scam as most already knew.

  • OneCanOnlyHope

    Regardless of how they spend their money; the art is UGLY!! I say UGLY!! Who in their right mind would want to live any where near that mess. I’m not surprised someone is strategically burning it down. With any luck it will be flattened come summer.

  • user xyyyz

    I’m not sure what “the Muckraking” is here. Is an office in Brush Park as good as being in Renaissance Center? Does someone making $1,000.00 a year seem credible as a leader for a non profit? Steve Neavling’s descriptive is “investigative journalist” does that mean he’s a journalist? Just asking.

  • Jim E.

    I’m not particularly a fan of the Heidelberg Project, I just don’t get the art. However, the article did strike a nerve as it suggests that an organization (whether you agree with its mission or not) that has been around for 28 years should not function as any other nonprofit art organization would. I looked up the organization on http://www.Guidestar.com and they have a gold standard rating for transparency. I mean you might as well just say it, they should be poor, pray for help and be pathetic because the art exhibit is in the hood! With all of this other “fishy” & fabricated sounding info you’re trying to feed us, why not be bold enough to say that! We’ve all seen this approach before though, the one of defamation to climb the journalists ladder. Whats most unfortunate about this attempt is how obvious it is, that even someone whose not into the artsy stuff or this organization could see right through this desperate article smh. Steve, step ya game man!

  • tommydesmond

    You mean Tyree isn’t accommodating the CITY? Oh my god! Because his art project and the city of Detroit have always been super tight. Detroit has been up his *** for decades.

    I’ll admit, it’s bizarre that so many of these installations have burned, but I also don’t really see a motive for Tyree to have destroyed them. If he didn’t own the properties, he couldn’t insure them, so where’s the financial motive? In reality, I can’t imagine too many insurance companies were chomping at the bit to insurance his projects regardless of it he owned the property or not.

    “Let me get this straight, you’ve taken a vacant derelict house, covered it in trash and lead paint, and you’ve got hundreds of suburbanite explorers crawling through it at all hours of the day and night?
    Sounds great! Here’s a $1,000,000 liability policy!”, said no insurance agent ever.

    Whether or not the installation has merit or the management of the non-profit “deserves” to make any money is an age old art question. Who gets to decide whether an installation is “worth” payment? I dunno. I’m personally not a contributor the Heidelberg Project, but does that mean I get to unilaterally decide it’s valueless? Of course not.

    $61k isn’t a high salary for a managing director that’s actually involved in day to day operations. I don’t necessarily know what their operations involve, but hey, they’ve apparently convinced enough people that it warrants at least $750k over 2 years, so good on them.

    Also, the assumption is they’re exhausting that $750k over the same period. Non-profits often employ the use of endowments to fund operations. If they added that $750k to an endowment, and then are operating off the interest generated by the endowment, they’re not actually using up the operating capital.

    There’s a lot of assumptions here, and without a little more proof, or at least some inkling of WHY it’d be a good idea for an artist to nuke the project that brought him fame (that is the presupposition you’re implying) I think you need to a be a little more careful with how you frame this piece.

    It does come across a little assassinatorial.

    PS – If assassinatorial isn’t a word, it should be… and it is now.

    • curious

      Fantastic media coverage during a fundraiser.

  • Deven Aventura

    They are just showing that they are cooperating with investigators. but in real they know what is the truth.
    http://www.ciiworldwide.com

  • whoisdonald

    While the Heidelberg Project should not be beyond scrutiny, this piece is so slanted it reads as slander and sensationalism. I hope any follow up piece provides more balance, including perspectives by any of the many thousands they inspire through their mission and activities.

  • Gebecca Rolden

    I’ve spent nearly two years researching at Heidelberg as part of a large writing project. No one ever asked me to keep information confidential. I acted independently, as a scholar and writer. I never saw any evidence of malfeasance. I also saw that Mr. Guyton and his tiny staff (whose salaries are cast as somehow criminal here) continuously worked at the site, added structures and displays, and that the Number House was also staffed by people who answer tourists’ questions and who sold HP materials.

    The organization runs the ACES program in the public schools. They host community events (not fundraisers, btw — street festivals for residents and others on the east side). They run an emerging artist program. These are all clearly stated goals. The work is beneficial to the east side and to Detroit as a whole. Studies show that it brings in half a million dollars in revenue to the city every year.

    If not for staffing — people to build installations (that is, btw, what the landscape architect does. I have interviewed her and observed her working on-site), people to perform that work in the schools, people to create community evens and run the emerging artists program — what should HP spend its budget on? They had planned on putting a good chunk of it into a headquarters in the Penny House, before it burned.

    Security is very expensive. I’m not sure how far even $50K would have gone, if you consider that they group would need a patrol something like 80 hours a week, every week of the year. I’ve heard people say they’d happily volunteer to patrol, but consider the risks involved in that. The organization likely knew that the insurance burden for volunteer patrols would be prohibitive.

    Tyree Guyton is nationally known. His art could be a source of income commercially. Before she became HP’s executive director — a task that moved from casual help to an 80-hour-a-week full time job — Jennene Whitfield held executive positions in the for-profit sphere (banking, most recently). Both of these individuals could earn far more than they do if they weren’t part of HP. They both see it as a mission.

    I came to HP as a reasonably impartial observer. I had no prior relationship with anyone there. I’ve worked with people at HP on a loose basis (a tiny amount of volunteer writing, e.g.). If this site, or the papers, had solid information, or sources on the record, I would be alarmed and sad, but I know that facts are facts. I see no facts here. I see spin and conjecture.

    It’s not really enough.

  • jacasey

    Having worked at a non-profit arts organization, I can tell you that even the smallest most frugal of organizations will have overhead. The article seemed to focus on the employees taking a salary, which is ridiculous. Artists are working professionals. They should be paid for their work. I wouldn’t expect Mr. Neavling to slave over this article for free.

    There are so many expenses that go into overhead the author either didn’t consider, or chose to ignore. This includes liability insurance, so that the space can be open to the public without fear of a lawsuit incase of injury, web design and hosting fees – speaking of their website, they are quite transparent about their spending and have downloadable PDF files outlining their yearly accomplishments, as well as how much money they raised and how much of it went to operating costs.

  • Joel

    Sounds like a li bel suit to me.

  • Jenenne Whitfield

    Wow, Steve. After our 30 minute chat on Saturday, I must say that this was the last thing I expected. You claimed you wanted to set the record straight, but here you have done quite the opposite. I feel deceived. You have chosen to distort the facts purely to stir up your readership and that’s unfortunate. At this critical time in the history of the Heidelberg Project, it’s unconscionable that you would use us for your own personal gain. While I understand that driving traffic to your webpage is important for increasing your Google Adsense revenue, it’s truly gut-wrenching that you would do so at our expense. Since you pride yourself in protecting a “vulnerable” Detroit, I hope that in the future you will report on the full story, rather than the exciting one.

    P.S. Our ATF contact confirmed with DFD that no one from either squad has spoken with you regarding these investigations.

    P.P.S. The staff is getting quite a kick out of your “spacious office” comment.

    All the best,
    Jenenne Whitfield
    Executive Director, The Heidelberg Project

    • TheManInTheMiddle

      You seem like a crook to me. That much is clear.

      • Joel

        Based on what exactly? The ignorant remarks about compensation on this rag site?

        • Guest

          I agree.
          In previous posts, I commented on how ironic it was that a supposed “muckraking” journalist, censored comments he does not agree with.
          Along with his extremely liberal use of a slanderous “paintbrush.”

  • BentDemocrat

    I’m really flummoxed by all the nay-sayers. Are you folks just tired of this art or is there something else going on here?

    I live in LA. We actually try to get the city to sponsor artists with our tax-dollars. Some people complain about that (of course), but most don’t. We kind of like art here. Go figure.

  • Matty Ice

    While investigative journalists are certainly free to investigate, conclude, and publish as they please, thanks to our first amendment, it boggles my mind that ANY journalist would choose to publish work in their name without first investigating the whole story (as their job title
    would seem to imply). Maybe that’s why some turn (or are forced to turn, ha!) to freelance work instead of working with respected agencies.

    Spacious? Take one step inside of the HP office and tell me you still think their office is spacious.

    And whether or not the mysterious “high-level” fire official is truthful, would you continue to jump at the opportunity to speak with officials who have been of zero benefit to you after months of attacks, let
    alone at preventing them? Nowadays it seems like HP is forced to spend all of their time defending themselves against ruthless, uninformed, speculative journalists like yourself as opposed to going about day to day activities, recovering from the fires, or attempting to increase donation and grant income.

    If HP only owns four parcels, and presumably could collect insurance monies on damages, what in the world is the benefit of destroying
    parcels outside of their ownership? Surely the thought of raising a wildly outrageous, inconceivable goal of $50,000 couldn’t have been the basis for all of this –that only covers one of their grossly overpaid employees, right? I’m sure Uncle Sam would have something to say if this money inexplicably disappeared from their books and found itself in Tyree/Jenenne’s pocket. But maybe Tyree and Coleman Young/Dennis Archer colluded some grand scheme back in the 90’s to bulldoze a couple of HP’s prized possessions. Obviously that sky-rocketed
    revenue and status for HP back then. Or maybe Tyree, Kevin Orr, and Duggan devised this plan over a couple Cubans on a lavish site seeing tour around the luxurious east-side.

    Also, have to find the accusation of lack of effort or urgency on the security plan a wee bit outrageous. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to conclude that a non-profit with no knowledge of master security
    development planning for a couple city blocks would take some time to work through. And, well, without fundraiser money, how are you supposed to start implementing all of this? As if the planning wasn’t difficult enough, the lack of City infrastructure had to provide a little bit of a road block, don’t you think? But then again, maybe it’s all part of the grand plan (Duh! The entire City has been allowing arsons, murderers, rapists, thieves, and blight to roam freely for quite some time!)

    Personally, I think 43 is clearly to blame. Surely no one
    around Detroit would dare even conceive do something like burn down
    controversial buildings. Or maybe Tyree just thoroughly enjoys the heartache of seeing his life work go up in flames and having to start all over.

  • Joel

    The number of uninformed responses shows just how damaging “loose journalism” like this is. Responses like Whitfield is just the “girlfriend of the artist getting paid for volunteering” are completely ignorant. She is the executive director, does grant writing, volunteer coordinating, fund raising initiatives- have you ever done grant writing? No I do not mean simple ones like Knight Arts or others geared to functionally illiterate artists. It is highly time consuming, requires number crunching and strong language skills etc I’m sure she often works more than a 40 hour work week. As more and more people from the non profit arts sector weigh in, we will see how misleading and spurious this article is. Further, in response to my previous post the author sent an email to my personal account saying simply “people can decide for themselves.” WRONG! As a “journalist,” it is incumbent on you to provide a proper context for statements and to not mislead people. The comments here show just how many people have deduced something nefarious from what is actually a very typical compensation level. Did you get your story from bogus Facebook comments of the last month?

  • Joel

    Steve- you don’t know what you re talking about. The implication that employee compensation is out of whack does not hold up. It is very appropriate and typical of arts non profits of the Heidelberg’s size. By making it sound nefarious, you are engaging in borderline libel. Stable income for employees is the primary reason for an arts organization to become non profit. It takes a lot of time, energy and mental stress to operate something like the Heidelberg; so what they split 190k between 9 people. What about the non profits who pay 190 k to a single individual?

    • MickinDetroit

      when you spend all your money on staff, overhead and travel and not the “cause”.. its a problem. when you continue to hire and increase compensation when your donations are falling, its a problem.

      and if those that pay 190k salary to an individual usually have the funds to do so… when they do so and don’t have the funds and the cause gets 0, they are rightly called out for it.

      • Joel

        If you’re the Red Cross or March of Dimes spending excessively on compensation (and they do) it’s legitimate argument, because the “cause” is about resources not going to starving children, health emergencies etc. With the Heidelberg and other arts nonprofits, the cause is working with children, community engagement and improvement etc., all which is done by the staff- which is what they are compensated for. This isn’t to say they are doing everything right and shouldn’t be open for criticism. It’s to say that regarding the budget and compensation, the “reporter” has no idea what he’s talking about.

        • MickinDetroit

          I think you’re inferring that I think no one who works at a nonprofit art experience can be paid for their time. Not saying that at all. From the reporting, it’s apparent they were taking on staff and increasing compensation while revenue declined… and are currently in the red…and they raised a bunch of money for security–but only spent 18k of it on actual security.

          I’m saying the circumstantial evidence (which is admittedly based on some speculation) is not very encouraging.

          • Greg Phelps

            It takes money to make money.

      • Joel

        Plus they had two decades of doing this work for free without any funding…

  • I would be careful to cast speculation. It is not uncommon in any
    business that salaries and marketing/development comprise most of a
    firm’s expenses. It’s also not NEW news that fundraisers are mostly
    unsustainable forms of fundraising. Most barely break especially when
    sponsored by an organization of this size. The notion that nonprofits
    are supposed to address big issues with pennies is OLD and TIRED. It
    speaks to this ridiculous culture of charity we live in where we close a
    blind eye to issues until something like this comes up and then we
    blame the nonprofit instead of ourselves for allowing it to happen. We
    all know that if we really cared about this community, we could
    eliminate this arson issue. Here are the facts: 1) someone is burning
    that shit down. 2) few gave a F about this neighborhood until now.
    3)Blaming HP for having shitty books is like saying a rape victim
    deserved it. 3) this article IS pandering and Neavling is stirring the
    pot and appealing to the worst of us. 4) nonprofits actually need more
    money to attract great talent and to actually SOLVE the problems they
    were founded to eradicate. 5) Why don’t you say what you really wanna say which is that you think Tyree and Jeanine actually burned these houses (that you point out they don’t own) themselves. Isn’t that what you really want us to think? How about we check the books of some of your
    favorite “new Detroit ventures” and let me know how that’s all working
    out!? While you’re at it, Mr. Neavling, watch this: http://www.ted.com/…/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think…

    • macjulie

      Love this TED talk!

  • Danny V

    I agree with Wednesday Lee Friday. You insinuated quite a bit, but didn’t prove anything. You didn’t investigate the responsibilities of each paid employee. But you did imply Heidelberg was wasting money on salaries. How exactly should they spend their money to avoid being the center of hack journalism like this? Maybe you should stop and think about where the material for the art installations come from. B/c if I’m reading you correctly, you think the bulk of the money should be spent on the “art.” Does that mean the stuffed animals or the shopping carts or the records? I’m guessing Tyree and company did not go to People’s Records, buy a shelf of vinyl, then glue them to the House of Soul. I’m gonna go out on a limb here, but I would venture to say most of the items in The Heidelberg were found, donated or collected from second-hand shops. You’re not going to rack up a $100K tab in St. Raymond’s resale room. You say they’re not cooperating. Implying they’re hiding something. In turn, implying that they may have something to do with the fires. If you weren’t already aware, all a journalist has is his/her integrity. You’re putting yours on the line here. You start accusing people of misdeeds and nothing comes up, no one is going to take your writing seriously. I’m not writing this b/c I’m in Tyree’s corner. I’ve met him. I don’t care for him. I’m writing this b/c I the twisting of reality through accusatory pieces like this is morally reprehensible. Do your homework. Write a real story.

    • Guest

      Tell us, how do they “earn” their money?

  • BentDemocrat

    The sums quoted in this article are pitifully small. $18,000 a year is not even enough for one guard and you are sure as heck going to need more than one to watch over property 24/7/365.

    Is this a hit piece or non-biased reporting?

    • Joel

      Hit piece

    • Guest

      What exactly was their plan when they raised the money other than raising the money?

      • BentDemocrat

        I don’t know. What are your plans? Are you trying to shut them down? Why?

  • Mike Polachekster

    They are both guilty of something. Isn’t it obvious? The entire project looked like it was funded on $2 a year, not $200k. Why did they need so many employees and a fancy office for anyway? Tax loop-holes?

    • Aletha Oberdier

      My thoughts exactly. ‘landscaping’?? Come on … landscaping was sorely missing IMO. I appreciate the art and that artists need to get paid too, but running a small start-up non-profit is no cake-walk. It’s mostly trial and error. [from personal experience]. What I find so sad is that after a few arsons, there was not better protection on the remaining property. THAT is what seems fishy to me …. almost like the arson was seen as an opportunity to fundraise and then either start fresh or walk away from the project….

    • BentDemocrat

      They are both guilty of something? What?

      Jeebus. Are you retarded or wha?

  • sjeannep

    Who took the photographs? Particularly, the Clock House burning?

    • Most photos are by Steve, including the Heidelberg house on fire. The before and after photo was taken by one of our freelancers. The pictures of Tyree and Jenenne are from Facebook.

      • sjeannep

        Thank you!

  • MCAndyT

    As an artist who’s work is primarily temporary installation art and who shows at non-profit art spaces, I do not see HP’s use of money primarily on administrative staff as damning evidence that they are intentionally self-destructing, or laundering it on golf junkets. Most of the materials I use and what Tyree uses are discarded, forgotten things that don’t cost much to get, but they do cost money to store (that spot in Brush Park isn’t an empty ball room, it’s a working studio that houses a lot of stuff). I find it takes a lot of time and labor to manage what little work I do, let alone to deal with all of the artwork Mr. Guyton has put forth over the years. I’m glad to hear that somebody’s got a job as a result of art made for free. I’m glad that someone’s getting paid for doing their job.

    • MickinDetroit

      “I’m glad that someone’s getting paid for doing their job.”

      Sure, but it would seem securing the property from arsonists was not part of anyone’s job description….

      • BentDemocrat

        What do you suggest; a twenty-four hour, seven day a week, three hundred sixty-five day a year staff of security people? Do you know how much that costs?

        • MickinDetroit

          I don’t…. and apparently neither did the project. But that didn’t stop them from running a money beg specifically to address security issues (not pay salaries).

          • BentDemocrat

            Don’t look now, but security guards charge for their services. You know, a salary.

          • Guest

            What was their plan when raising the money? I’ll assume they still have it all right?

          • MickinDetroit

            hey…maybe the lanscape architect on salary could be laid off for the winter and a security service could be hired?

        • Angela WhiteHawk Potter

          The group Bleach Detroit volunteers to do security there as much as needed or wanted. The cost to Tyree,nothing.

          • BentDemocrat

            Then someone failed…didn’t they?

          • No, We patrolled there 24/7 for 2 months with 0 fires stopped patrolling there 2 weeks later there was a fire so no we did not fail ty

          • BentDemocrat

            So my question would have to be “why did the patrols stop?” Was money and issue?

          • At the time we had commitments to other neighborhoods and were short on man power seeing we only had 15 patrol volunteers at that time,Now we are city wide with over 200 patrol volunteers out 7 days a week,if you are not familiar with us maybe you could stop by http://www.bleachdetroit.weebly.com to check us out and what we do in the community, and thank you for the added comment giving us a chance to reply as to why we stopped patrolling there.Have a blessed day.

          • they have not stopped throughout the city just at the Heidelberg project, because of this conflict

  • Mirriah Uunderground

    Please continue to dig on this story. It has been so obvious from the start, well done.

  • Wednesday Lee Friday

    What a ridiculous attempt to defame an organization. Are you really of the belief that people who work for non-profits don’t deserve to get paid like people who work any other job? Oh, and a scandalous cost-of-living increase from five years ago?!? Oh noes??! It’s as if people think they deserve a living wage just because they work fuil-time. The horror! Thank goodness we have you to ferret out such injustice.

    If the staff spoke to the police and fire officials numerous times (they did), how many more times must they let themselves be harassed? Is this just sour grapes because the fire official agree to talk to you (without identifying himself–how brave that he refused to put a name to his slanderous statements) and the people you’re slandering didn’t?
    Muckraking was once a vital and necessary facet of journalism. This is just wank disguised as real reporting. Caution: sarcasm ahead: So congratulations for making it even harder to bring the arts to the city than it already was. What an amazing service you’re doing for your community. Hope you haven’t been paid for it, BTW, or someone might have to “investigate” where your money comes from, where it goes, and who’s “really” funding this kind of shoddy, lackluster “reporting.”

    • Stephan Palazzolo

      Get real. Numbers do not lie. Typical of most of the city that used to be detroit, doing nothing for money is a way of life. Sounds like the “artist” found a lick and was stacking cash. Then got caught by this report.

      • Wednesday Lee Friday

        And here I thought this mindset was based on idiotic and antiquated stereotypes…

        • SpaceGoat ®

          And here you go again Cat Lady

          I send you LOVE and HUGS because you need it.

          It must suck to be a angry, overweight cat lady who spends time trying to troll people.

          Please get yourself some help, and if you really believe what you say, then MAKE YOUR USERNAME something that can be linked to YOU.

          Until then you are a coward!

          LOVE YA

          MUAH

          • Please refrain from personal attacks.

          • SpaceGoat ®

            Aww I am sorry you have a bad command of english, if you knew what a personal attack was maybe then you could speak.

            MUAH to you , life is about LOVE, you and your friends need to get outside.

            Why don’t you call the cops on me then.

            I would LOVE IT!

            Not only do I know the law, but the law knows me in a GOOD WAY.

            MUAH

          • I don’t understand anything you just said but please refrain from personal attacks or you will be banned.

          • Richard Bone

            What are you waiting for?

          • Mike Polachekster

            You do not have a single ounce of love in your body. Please move on troll.

          • MCAndyT

            I’m pretty sure all caps are an indication of anger, right? So, does that mean you are the troll? I guess that means this discussion is over

          • Wednesday Lee Friday

            You might try googling me before insisting that I’m a “coward” with a made up name. I’m sure if we called your moms, she’d have lots to say about her little Spacegoat, right?

          • specom2

            Your mom named you SpaceGoat? Wow, no wonder you’re so hostile! Lol…

          • Kathi Davis-Jackson

            You’re clearly too immature for an adult conversation. Adults don’t need to resort to name calling and insult to get their point across. Grow up or try to stay away from adult conversations so when others disagree with you, you are able to throw rocks or tantrums consistent with your level of maturity.

      • Stephan Palazzolo

        they gots paid

      • Joel

        You are poorly informed about appropriate compensation for arts non profits. Doing nothing? According to who? Are you familiar with what their work day consists of?

      • Kathi Davis-Jackson

        I don’t know where you get your info from, but I live in Detroit, and know the majority of people there work very hard. In fact, there are a great number of blue collar and service workers that probably work a lot harder than the white collar workers in some of the surrounding suburbs. In fact, please tell me how I could become part of the residents doing nothing for money as I have been working almost all my life and could use the break.

    • MickinDetroit

      1000 to 61000 in a three year period is a “cost of living adjustment”?

      Further how is it a slander to point out they were hiring and increasing overhead while they’re funds on hand were in steep decline?

      To your sarcasm… maybe being responsible stewards of the donated money might be a better way to attract arts to the city?

      Going on a highly publicized money beg campaign to fund security and then not funding security is the issue…not being exposed as incompetent fiduciaries.

      • MCAndyT

        In America $1000 is NOT a standard for living.

        I do agree that it is imperative for non-profits to be good stewards of the funds donated to them, but I don’t understand your point about “attract arts to the city”. Do you mean they should do a better job to attract money & support for the arts in the city? The art’s already here, its the money that is the skittish part (and the impetus for this article)

        • MickinDetroit

          No.. its nominal wage for the wife of the artist in compensation for her quasi volunteering. I do some work with some local and small nonprofit boards. very few are able to pay anything near a living wage to anyone other than maybe a few office/clericals they pay hourly. Why? because they survive primarily on donations. people who donate get very snippy to find out their money is going to overhead and not the “cause”

          The “attract art” comment was in response to the OP sardonic comment.
          The money is skittish because of the mismanagement, not the Muckraker exposing it.

          • MCAndyT

            understand now your earlier statement. thx

          • Gebecca Rolden

            Ms. Whitfield went from doing a small amount of work to running the organization full-time. The change reflects a move from providing support and assistance and holding a job elsewhere, to running HP full time.

          • Gebecca Rolden

            Jennene Whitfield works at least 80 hours week, btw. This is not “quasi volunteering”.

    • SpaceGoat ®

      WOW, you are a angry person. Please calm down.

      You have proven you have not read the article, and also you have shown that you know NOTHING about non-profits…

      ITS NOT ABOUT MONEY, or at least its not supposed to be in ANY NON PROFIT…

      Now maybe a NOT FOR PROFIT can, but not a NON PROFIT.

      And to HIDE under a name here while you try to drum up anger will NOT work for nobody.

      I hope you can get your life on track, get rid of the myriad of cats you have in your house and start to shed some pounds, and maybe then you can be someone who is not full of anger all day.

      Also most people do not take nor abuse free or govt. money, yet it seems you can not live without getting handouts.

      So Ms Cat Lady, learn to smile and care about your own self and THINK before you speak on stuff that not only has been proven, but stuff that YOU DO NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT.

      This concludes my message

      May the #BAAHK be with you

      LOVE and KISSES from

      @BAAHKAST aka SpaceGoat

      • Wednesday Lee Friday

        I will say one thing for you haters, you are AWESOME at stereotyping. It’s amazing how you can know so much about me by just reading my dissenting comment.

      • tommydesmond

        If you don’t think non-profits are about money, you’re utterly confused about the reality of how they operate.

  • Jason G

    Keep Digging.

  • L Jerome Dmongo

    I told you I been in the Streets my whole Life. Stayed alive this long by being able to smell a RAT, I told you before you’ll be surprise when you discover the Rat. It takes inside information to do this and get away with it, for the amount of the reward everyone and their Mother is looking out of their window trying to catch who?

  • JC

    Follow the money. Good work Steve.

  • queenie1

    oh man – good story but sad

  • Tom Nardone

    Steve, You are doing a great job. This city needs you badly.

  • robin silverest

    This former “homegirl” has felt all along that something smells beyond foul. “Juice” some locals…finding the culprit should have been fairly easy for Tyree and company, course that would be a bad plan if the fire, smoke and rubble land at your own feet!

  • Bob Connely

    Sounds as if these folks caught the glimmer of free money and decided, “To hell with the art, let’s play!” What a shame it is that initiatives like this always seem to end up being “managed” (mangled?) by inexperienced, greedy people with huge cases of arrogance overload.

    • MCAndyT

      I don’t understand what you mean by “free money”. For over a decade the only free thing was the artist’s labor.

      • Guest

        You can get paid for that stuff? Darn I thought you needed a job or to own a business…..

  • Gary

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.