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Listen to artist Tyree Guyton explain his hopes for the future of the Heidelberg Project

Feb 18, 2015

Albums, polka-dots and teddy bears aren't typically what you see as exterior house decor, but they've become a staple on Heidelberg St. in Detroit as part of the Heidelberg Project. The project is an outdoor community art environment created by Tyree Guyton.

It began when Guyton was a student at the College for Creative Studies in the 1980s. 

After a professor asked him what he wanted to achieve with his work, he had a vision.

"I was able to see using art as a medicine," said Guyton, "to take what was there and to transform it into something very whimsical."

The project has changed the neighborhood, bringing visitors from around the world, but Guyton says his real mission was to show the community and kids how they can use their imagination.

While the project has many supporters, it has faced some hardships. Numerous counts of arson in the past two years have destroyed six installations.

"I just wanted to do something in my neighborhood. That's it." - Tyree Guyton

The fire investigations are ongoing and Guyton says he doesn't know who's behind them, he just knows he won't stop creating. He said he finds inspiration from Mother Teresa.

"She says that you can spend years of your life building something, creating something, and then overnight, someone can come along and destroy it," said Guyton. "But she says, 'Don't stop.' I don't know. I don't really care. I just know that I won't stop. I can't. It won't let me."

Guyton is already moving forward, with plans for upcoming installations underway.

The project's fame and lasting impact is still shocking to Guyton.

"I just wanted to do something in my neighborhood," said Guyton. "That's it."

If you want to hear more from Guyton, you can catch him at an event being put on by the University of Michigan's Museum Studies Program. The event will take place this Friday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. Find more here.

--Katrina Shafer, Michigan Radio Newsroom