In 1986, to make a statement about poverty and despair—and hopefully to chase off drug dealers—artist Tyree Guyton began painting whimsically colorful dots on deserted buildings and creating sculptures out of abandoned cars and castaway material on the street where he lived. City bureaucrats bulldozed some of Guyton’s works in the 1990’s, but as his artistic fame has grown—aided by a 1996 photo exhibit that toured Europe and by the traveling Shrinking Cities exhibition—the area became a landmark, frequented by visitors from around the world. While much of the neighborhood is now empty fields, several of Guyton’s works remain as they did when he first created them.
Tip: Detroit’s other gritty post-urban tourist curiosity is the once grand Michigan Central Depot, just west of downtown. Abandoned for decades, it’s in such terrible shape that it’s sort of beautiful, and attracts its share of gawkers.