Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Town, Monday, Tyree Guyton and the Heidelberg Project


Any discussion of Detroit will eventually lead to a discussion of the Heidelberg Project and Tyree Guyton. For an in depth look at it, simple google his name. For the purposes of My Town Monday, here's a tease. Twenty years ago, Guyton was looking for a way to express both himself and his frustration with the deterioration of his city. Guyton, with little money sought to make a statement about this via his own neighborhood.
He began to paint colorful pictures on the neighboring abandoned house. He began collecting discarded objects and creating fields of vacuum cleaners, car hoods, dolls and shoes --all painted in bright colors. Easy to do in Detroit, where streets had begun to look rural due to demolished or falling-down housing. He nailed objects ro the houses themselves, hung bikes, did whatever he could to transform Heibelberg Street into a living work of art.

Not everyone approved of this. Some of the neighbors thought his work was mocking their poverty. Or that is wasn't art at all. It became controversial, a subject that divided the city. Was it art or an eyesore? The courts entered the debate and although they ruled his work was constitutionally protected as a genuine artistic expression, he City of Detroit in 1998 served Guyton with an order to dismantle the project or they would demolish it. Odd for a city that couldn't demolish the abandoned house he had painted his work on.
In 1999, the City demolished the site.
It's not over yet, however. Parts of it reappear. Guyton's art turns up in museums and private collection. Its still a part of Detroit.
Is it art or an eyesore? Look at the streets around Heidelberg and make your choice.

For more My Town Monday, go visit Travis Erwin at:http://traviserwin.blogspot.com/

18 comments:

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Patti,

I love seeing the impact that one person can have! God Bless Mr. Guyton. He brought publicity to the problem in a most unusual way.

Terrie

pattinase (abbott) said...

And his original project has spawned many other endeavors. Hi Terrie!

Lana Gramlich said...

A shame they demolished it, although I could understand the neighbors' issues, too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, because the artist's determining that his art supercedes the right to a quiet street (the traffic going by was quite heavy)and the right to live without calling attention to your poverty. Difficult issue.

Travis Erwin said...

At least he got the problem noticed.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Mostly what got noticed was what many considered to be an eyesore-his own work. But a lot of it's part of art collections now.

Josephine Damian said...

Art. It's a shame the city tore it down.

No doubt it brought attention to an issue as well as the person who found a creative way to address it. I'm glad at least parts of it survive.

Clair Dickson said...

I think it was neat. Though, it's too bad that the city missed the whole point. Some people don't get modern art. ;-)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Detroit thought he was mocking them I think. Which he was and wasn't. Complicated.
And I certainly don't get all modern art myself. What about a room full of monitors? Does anyone get that? A pile of leaves on the floor? A red slash on a white wall. Help.

WordVixen said...

I don't know about the art, but he's easy on the eyes!

I suppose all it takes to make something "art" is for it to be making a statement. What he did definitely qualifies, but like you said, the neighbors have rights too. And as the neighbor to several obnoxious people- I have more sympathy with his neighbors than with his art.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Exactly what caused the problems. It was perceived as disrespectful.

The Anti-Wife said...

It goes back to the old adage, one man's trash is another man's treasure. I don't really understand modern art, but that doesn't mean it's bad - just that it won't be hanging in my home. Good for him for pursuing his beliefs.

Peter said...

We have something like that in Philadelphia: http://jschumacher.typepad.com/photos/south_st_mosaics/index.html
==============
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lyzzydee said...

What a gfreat idea!! I like ghis style!!!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Peter-I wonder if every city has a Tyree Guyton. Masking the decay must draw artists to the scene.

Patricia J. Hale said...

I love much modern art which often has humor and irony. Thanks for bringing Tyree Guyton to our attention.

Anonymous said...

My daughters bought me a picture of Guyton's original arthouse, and it's always been one of my favorites. I'm doing an article on "Enjoying Detroit's Art Scene, and it's defnitely a feature. Thanks!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lucky you! Let me know when the article appears. Maybe I can link it to My Town, Monday.