At the Michigan Art Education Association conference entitled "The Industry of Art" I was privledged to hear visionary artist Tyree Guyton speak and to view his work at the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, MI. (See more information here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy9nLV9ytKM). Tyree Guyton is an inspiration to me as both an artist and an art educator.
Guyton was born in 1955 in Detroit, MI, and he lived in an East Side neighborhood and watched the neighborhood change and deteriorate. As people left the Heidelberg neighborhood, they left trash and debris. Also, people from surrounding neighborhoods dumped their trash on the empty and abandoned lots in the Heidelberg neighborhood. Statistically 60% of the men from this area of Detroit were either dead or in prison by the age of 28. Rather than fleeing the neighborhood or allowing discouragement to lead to inactivity, Tyree Guyton decided to use his artistic talents to wage against the urban blight surrounding him. In 1986 Tyree Guyton and his grandfather began painting colorful dots on the side of their home, and this became the start of the internationally recognized "Heidelberg Project." Guyton is described as an "urban environmenal artist" because he gathers the debris left in the neighborhood and he creates a continually changing outdoor art gallary. Guyton's work challenges the boundary between art and life, and he has faced opposition to the Heidelberg project in the past. His work raises the imperative questions pertaining to the definition, function, and purpose of art.
Tyree Guyton inspires me as an artist because he is incredibly resilient, resourceful, and hard working. Tyree uses the materials available to him in order to communicate a powerful messege and to revitalize his community. When I visited the Heidelberg Project, Guyton was hard at work raking leaves, caring for the community he lives within.
Tyree Guyton inspires me as an art educator, because he is an unconventional and incredible art educator within his neighborhood. He involves the children in creating art, and he has mentored several children who have literally been "raised up" within the Heidelberg project.
This is Tyree Guyton's childhood home. Currently his mother still lives in this home. When she passes away the home will be turned into a museum. The colored dots on the building symbolize each individual person and the interconnectedness of humanity.
Some of Tyree Guyton's work is less political and more playful. Guyton simply likes taxis, so he paints them.
Although this painted tire with long grasses growing inside of it is a small change in the neighborhood, I found this detail to be very compelling. What can I do to improve my immediate surroundings, both physically and socially?
This sculpture serves as a recent memorial to the oil spill in the south.
Like this sculpture, Guyton's work seems to communicate the tension between hope and despair.
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