Tyree Guyton speaks in Morenci 5.7

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.web
    NICE WORK—A spider remains at the center of a web, awaiting visitors, during a moist morning last month. The was built in front of Eagle Funeral Home in Morenci.
  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
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  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.