Tyree Guyton is primarily a painter and sculptor, but is often described as an urban environmental artist because of his Heidelberg Project, a controversial street art exhibit that reflects Guyton’s personal war against urban blight on Detroit’s east side. The Heidelberg Project began in 1986 when Guyton transformed an abandoned house on his block to stop the decline of the neighborhood. The project has since grown into two city blocks as a living indoor/outdoor art gallery. Guyton uses junked and abandoned cars, clothing, vacuum cleaners, and other discarded materials found in the neighborhood—everything from old shoes to bicycles to baby dolls—to embellish abandoned houses, sidewalks, and empty lots in the Heidelberg Project.
The Joyce Award supported Wayne State University in creating a four-part visual art program in recognition of the contribution Guyton has made to Detroit. Beginning in fall 2007, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of his Heidelberg Project, the program included the mounting of Street Sense, an exhibition of Guyton's paintings, sculptures, and a re-creation/installation of significant works from the Heidelberg Project in the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery; the commissioning of Guyton to create a new sculpture to be installed on campus; public programs aimed at artists, scholars, students, community leaders and the general public; as well as a series of interactive arts workshops for Detroit Public School elementary and middle school children.