Tyree Guyton speaks in Morenci 5.7

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

As a child growing up in inner city Detroit, Tyree Guyton didn’t feel that he had much freedom. The racially-torn city pocked with impoverished neighborhoods didn’t appear to offer a ticket to a better life.

But Guyton found that ticket and it was called Art.

Art was his path to freedom, he told a standing-room-only crowd Thursday night at Stair Public Library. He freed himself through art; he used it as a process of healing.

Guyton said his high school art teacher showed him how art is a reflection of life, and life, as Guyton saw it, was really crazy.

One day he had his epiphany.

“It was like fireworks,” he said. “It felt like my head was on fire. I knew that my purpose in life was to create art.”

He had to choose between two approaches: Art to hang in galleries or art to use as a medicine to heal society.

That was an easy choice for Guyton. He would use art as a way to make changes.

“Art has the power to make a difference,” he said. “It’s important to create bridges to connect people. There’s no limit to what can be done through art.”

For more than two decades, Guyton worked in his home area on Heidelberg Street to create an array of projects such as a house covered with painted dots and another with stuffed animals. A yard of vacuum cleaners. A parade of shoes. A brightly painted city bus.

The response was far from positive from many of his neighbors, but that fit in with his goals.

“I was glad to hear people respond,” he said. “Before that the neighborhood was quiet. I wanted to bring people together and interact.”

The magic of Guyton’s work, said Heidelberg Project executive director Jenenne Whitfield, is the dialogue that the art opens up.

What Guyton calls wacky, whimsical art works to make most visitors happy.

In recent years, Guyton has spent time outside of Detroit working on projects as far away as the Central Desert of Australia.

Guyton noted that people from small towns such as Morenci are hesitant to visit the neighborhoods of Detroit and, conversely, people from his neighborhood would be frightened of driving to Morenci.

He earlier spoke of the dot as a symbolism for life, the tendency of life to repeat again and again.

“Looking around tonight, I see that circle. It’s a medicine to connect people. Traveling around the world, I see how everything is connected. There’s a pattern to life. I see how things work together.”

He’s pleased with the connections created by his Heidelberg Project (“I bring the whole world there”) and he looks forward to making more connections around the planet.

Guyton was asked what he would like to do for a future project.

“If I had my way, I’d love to polka-dot the White House,” he said.

With that change, he added, he would have to rename it the People’s House.

• Community artwork created for Tyree Guyton’s visit will be displayed at the library through May.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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