One bridge between the art I saw at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the blight I saw elsewhere in the city is artist Tyree Guyton, who has work both in the DIA’s collection:
And on Heidelberg Street on Detroit’s East Side. To a Houstonian, Guyton’s Heidelberg Project resembles a cross between Project Row Houses and the kinds of projects supported and maintained by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art:
Guyton’s been at it since 1986, often with resistance from the city and individuals who, incredibly in the context of the surrounding ruin, view the Heidelberg Project as “an eyesore because of its dependence on recycled materials and those who favor more conventional forms of urban renewal,” writes John Beardsley in a booklet I bought in the gift shop.
Also writing in the booklet, Bradley Taylor, associate director of the University of Michigan’s Museum Studies Program, says:
In our focus on the Heidelberg Project’s unmistakable “otherness,” most have overlooked how closely aligned it is, in fact, to an institutional model that was very familiar to us — the museum. Like museums, the Heidelberg Project maintains collections of artistic merit, offers outreach and educational programs to its audience, attracts visitors who come from a distance to see it, is funded by a combination of grant monies, private philanthropy, and earned income, and is perceived to be an asset of significant value to the community. And, among his many roles, Tyree Guyton serves not only as artist/creator but also as artist/curator, one who cares for his collections and seeks to interpret them to the public. Far more than in any of these superficial similarities, however, it is in the unique integration of the Heidelberg Project in the community that Guyton’s work most closely resembles a museum – a brilliant model that was first promulgated over 100 years ago.