By Jack VanHecke
The AmeriCorps/National AIDS Fund Team Detroit members are raising money to make an HIV/AIDS awareness statue in the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. Detroit is one of only eight cities nationwide that has an AmeriCorps team specifically focused on assisting non-profit agencies with HIV/AIDS programs.
“HIV/AIDS need to be back in the conversation,” said Sarah Dettloff, AmeriCorps member and co-leader of the initiative. “We feel the statue will have a positive public health effect in the community.”
The statue would be constructed of reclaimed parts from scrapped cars welded together in the form of an AIDS Awareness Ribbon. Dettloff said that by using scrapped auto parts, the statue echoes the art made of found objects that are already in the Heidelberg Project.
Tyree Guyton created the Heidelberg Project 25 years ago. In two blocks on Detroit’s Eastside, Guyton has used found objects, such as doors, shoes and abandoned buildings to make art that calls attention to urban abandonment but also offers hope for the future. The project, which has gained both international fame and local controversy, was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show and also in Time and Essence magazines. Even though the city of Detroit leveled many of the works with bulldozers in the 1990s, it attracts nearly 300,000 visitors every year. Some of its exhibits have traveled to Harvard and Venice.
Detloff said that Guyton welcomed the concept of the AIDS awareness statue in the Heidelberg Project. Just as the Heidelberg Project calls attention to urban abandonment, but also offers solutions, the statue would be a symbol of the epidemic and also the need for awareness, testing and treatment, she said.
The statue, which the team hopes to unveil on June 15, would also have a plaque which would include more than just donors’ names: it would give information about getting HIV testing.
Local metal worker Carlos Neilbock, of C.A.N Art Handworks, Inc., agreed to fabricate the parts into a fifteen-foot tall AIDS memorial ribbon. Detloff said she hopes volunteers want to “get their hands dirty” and help Neilbock build the statue.
The team started planning the AIDS Awareness Statue in December 2010, but the recent popularity of a RoboCop statue (in honor of the 1987 movie of the same name that took place in Detroit) sparked Team Detroit to go viral and use Facebook to rally support.
In just six days of fundraising, the proponents of the RoboCop statue surpassed their $50,000 goal, helped by a $25,000 donation from Peter Hottelet, owner of Omni Consumer Products. Hottelet’s company is named for the firm in the movie that built RoboCop. In real life, Hottlelet’s Omni Consumer Products creates licensed products from television and film, such as Stay Puft Marshmallows, Tru Blood, and Sex Panther Cologne.
The total project budget for the AIDS ribbon statue is $56,000, most of which is for artists’ fees, fabrication and installation costs. So far, the team has raised $12,000, and is facing a big problem: If it team doesn’t raise enough money by April 1, the statue may never be made.
Dettloff said private individuals have donated, but so far no corporate or foundation sponsors have given money to the cause. “We sent sponsorship packages to between 75 and 100 potential sponsors,” Dettloff said.
For those interested in sponsorship, Team Detroit is conducting tours of the Heidelberg Project for potential sponsors. For those interested in donating, Team Detroit can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com or through Team Detroit’s Facebook event page (search Facebook for “HIV/AIDS Awareness Sculpture for Detroit”).