DETROIT — It is difficult for a young artist to think about her legacy. When you’re just starting out, piecing together a voice, a practice, and some means of support is a full-time hustle; having time to think about the bigger picture is a luxury afforded to few. Legacy is the concern of the older artist, and as longtime stalwart of the Detroit public installation art movement, Tyree Guyton, who turned 60 years old this year, implied that he’s gearing up for the future when he announced last week that he would be taking down his iconic work, the Heidelberg Project, which has been 30 years in the making.
Working on his own and in a largely unauthorized fashion for decades, Guyton transformed Heidelberg Street, host to his childhood home, into a sprawling surrealist landscape, adorned with his paintings and sculptures of found objects and debris collected from around the city. While the city has in the past demolished his work, having bulldozed the unsanctioned installation in 1991 and again in 1999, in more recent years it has received international recognition, transforming into a nonprofit that has seen hundreds of thousands of visitors.