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News
Heidleberg project
Guyton's artwork, known as the Heidelberg Project, has attracted more than 250,000 visitors

The Heidelberg Project

Tourists flock to artwork; city wants it dismantled

August 28, 1998
Web posted at: 4:55 p.m. EDT (1655 GMT)

DETROIT (CNN) -- Tyree Guyton transformed the vacant lots and abandoned buildings of Heidelberg Street with his art and his vision of the neighborhood.

Then the people came.

What became known as the Heidelberg Project has attracted more than 250,000 visitors from around the world, making it one of Detroit's most popular tourist attractions.

"In 1986 I had this divine vision. I saw through the blight and I saw this, which has made a difference in the life of the people here today," he said.

Guyton's medium is the found object -- things that have been thrown out by others, even discarded shoes, which he says represent the souls of the homeless. His subjects are the people around him, whose faces he paints.

The project has grown over 12 years. It now covers more than an entire city block and has moved beyond Heidelberg Street itself.

Some don't view Guyton's work as art. In fact, the city wants it dismantled. Detroit's health department calls the site a potential health hazard, saying it attracts rodents and insects.

Although Guyton told the City Council he would have the project dismantled by this week, it's past the deadline and he is still painting. And he doesn't want to stop.


Guyton's medium is the found object -- things that have been thrown out by others, even discarded shoes, which he says represent the souls of the homeless.

"Let's talk about what was here before the art came. Let's talk about crack houses. Let's talk about shootouts. Let's talk about prostitution, vacant lots, tall weeds. And, the people tolerated it," he said.

Some of the Heidelberg Project is on city property, and the city may not wait for Guyton to dismantle it.

"There has to be some measure of taking it down. Now if it requires that we go in and bulldoze it then we may have to do that," said one city official.

Guyton said he does not expect everyone to like his work.

"But I do want people to think about what I am saying through my art," he said.



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