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Heidelberg Project president leaving to lead art museum in Baltimore, Maryland


Jenenne Whitfield, president and CEO of Detroit's iconic art installation, the Heidelberg Project, is leaving to take the helm of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Whitfield will become the museum's only second director in its 30-year history. Whitfield, who will start in September, will succeed Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, the American Visionary Museum's founding director and primary curator.

"We are so proud and delighted to have attracted as our new director such a devoted and credentialed artistic leader as Jenenne Whitfield who will now lead the American Visionary Art Museum forward and build on the indelible legacy of Founding Director Rebecca Hoffberger," said Christopher Goelet, board chair of the American Visitory Art Museum, in a press release.

Whitfield has worked with the Heidelberg Project, which her husband, Tyree Guyton founded, for 27 years. A Detroit destination, it's now known all over the world as a one-of-a-kind art installation.

In a statement on the Heidelberg Project's website Wednesday, Whitfield said she realized the news that she is stepping down would come as a shock to some, but it's "time to pass the baton." 

"So much has been accomplished for the HP during my tenure, however one critical piece of the puzzle was realized in 2021, when the City of Detroit publicly recognized Guyton/The HP with Detroit’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award," said Whitfield in a statement. "After years of controversy, demolitions and fires, the HP is now a permanent part of Detroit’s rich cultural fabric."

Whitfield said she hopes to continue to serve on the Heidelberg's board even after she steps down and a new leader is named. 

"My friend and life partner, Tyree will continue to be a Detroit anchor by continuing his work in Detroit and both he and I will commute between Baltimore and Detroit," she wrote. "The vision is expanding!!"

Whitfield and Guyton first met in 1993. The first time Whitfield saw the Heidelberg Project, which Guyton founded in the mid-1980s, she rolled down her window and said, "What in the hell is all this?" Sitting on a nearby curb, Guyton told her to get out and check it out.

"That's how it started," she told The Detroit News in 2018.

Whitfield, who has a background in banking, said the Heidelberg Project is now in the process of creating something called Heidelberg 3.0, its next evolution. Whitfield said the Heidelberg Arts and Leadership Academy continues to grow and thrive and they have a debt-free campus.

After all its challenges over the years, "in essence, we won the battle!" Whitfield said. "Art lives!" 

mfeighan@detroitnews.com