The Canvas: Street Sense
February 18, 2008 —
Internationally-known political and social artist Tyree Guyton's work is currently featured in the Marshall M. Fredrick's Museum at SVSU. The exhibit, titled Street Sense: Celebrating 20 Years of the Heidelberg Project, is a look into this artist's perspective on art, America, and the condition of much of Detroit's urban areas.
Born on Aug. 24, 1955 in Detroit, Guyton was introduced to art at an early age by his grandfather, artist Sam Mackey. Prior to focusing on art, he worked as a firefighter and autoworker, and served in the army.
Upon his return to Detroit from service in 1986, Guyton was shocked by the devastation caused by riots and crime in his old neighborhood.
In response to this decline, Guyton began the Heidelberg Project with Jenenne Whitfield. Working together with members of the community and neighborhood children in an effort to promote positive activities, they began to create an indoor and outdoor exhibit that would help to turn Detroit around - their canvas: the houses on Heidelberg street. One by one, they worked to redecorate houses with individual themes using bright colors and household objects.
The project, while successful and well-received, faced destruction on numerous occasions, as several of the houses were torn down. The project persevered, with dozens of houses and lots remaining, and new works continually being created.
The SVSU exhibit features photos, explanations and actual pieces from the landmark project, including paintings and sculptures made from every day items - an aesthetic flowing through much of Guyton's work.
"It's interesting," theater and communication senior Bridget Kreager said. "I particularly like the political statements ... especially about America's need to iron out its problems and political system before trying to transplant it elsewhere."
This is one of the major themes of Guyton's work.
"Our government is full of contradictions and hypocrisy, and as a result people are sick and dying," Guyton said.
To combat this, Guyton works to create beauty in an admittedly unorthodox way.
"I have come to the realization that I have been called to create art that is unusual and compositional in form. The traditional and the conventional way is a thing of the past."
Guyton and Project Director Jenenne Whitfield will visit SVSU's Rhea Miller Recital Hall on March 24 at 7:00 p.m. for a lecture and audience feedback about the project.