Profile: Tyree Guyton (1955)

Tyree Guyton is an artist from Detroit, Michigan. He is married to Jenenne Whitfield and continues to live in Detroit. Before becoming an artist, Guyton worked as a firefighter and an autoworker and served in the U.S. Army. He studied art at Marygrove College, Wayne State University, and the Center for Creative Studies—now College for Creative Studies. Guyton counts his grandfather, Sam Mackey, and Detroit artist Charles McGee as his greatest influences.

Early life into adulthood

Guyton was raised on Heidelberg Street, a residential neighborhood on Detroit’s east side, which influenced him throughout his life. in his childhood, he frequently visited the Detroit Institute of the Arts with his grandfather. Guyton also grew up during the Detroit riots of 1967. He proceeded to complete high school and serve in the U.S. Army. After his time in the military, he decided to pursue his dreams of being an artist. He began taking night classes under the artist Charles McGee, at the College for Creative Studies.

Art career

Since creating the Heidelberg Project with his grandfather in 1986, Guyton has received international recognition as an artist, educator, and community leader. The Heidelberg Project is slated to close due to his desire to focus on other projects.

Although he is an honorary director on the Heidelberg Project board of directors, in recent years he has concentrated his efforts on his art exhibitions as well as on lecturing and teaching. In 2007, he accepted a position teaching an honors program at Wayne State University.

In 1999, Tyree Guyton was the subject of an HBO Films documentary, “Come Unto Me: The Faces of Tyree Guyton”. This film won numerous honors, including an Emmy Award for editing in 2000 and honorable mention at the Sundance Film Festival for director Nicole Cattell.

In 2005, Guyton and the Heidelberg Project were featured on the Vision TV documentary “Urban Shrines”, produced by Toronto-based Markham Street Films. In 2007 Guyton’s work was included in the French documentary Detroit: The Cycles of the Mental Machine, featuring Techno artists Mike Banks and Carl Craig, directed by Jacqueline Caux. The illustrated children’s book Magic Trash, by Jane Shapiro, covers Guyton’s biography and the Heidelberg Project.

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