Monday, May 3, 2010

Ghost Waters: Matrix explores Detroit’s hidden waterways

Imagine downtown Detroit as a fertile paradise, as it existed long before industry came. Ghost Waters is Matrix Theatre Company’s three-year education, arts and awareness project which explores the ponds, marshes and rivers now hidden beneath downtown. Ghost Waters can be found where now sits Cobo Hall, Comerica Park and the Michigan Central Depot. What was lost in these places will be brought back to life through artistic stories, communal education activities, field trips, student showcases, workshops, street art and theatre pageants, all centered on water: its history, its present, and its role in the destiny of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. 

Ghost Waters’ next public event is the Water Fest, on Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 11am to 3pm outdoors at Matrix Theatre Company. Matrix is located at 2730 Bagley in Detroit’s Mexicantown. Performances, music, puppet workshops, food, and fun family activities will all focus on water consciousness. 

A ghost water is any body of water that was buried in the name of human progress. Many of Detroit’s waterways were used as sewers and eventually buried, but hidden rivers still flow beneath the city. The project examines Detroit’s water history, its current water problems and their impact on the future. Ghost Waters aims to serve as a vehicle to foster a renewed sense of place in Detroit’s ecosystems. The importance of recycling, water-consciousness, sustainability, and the right of every human being to have access to clean, running water are some of the topics Ghost Waters will connect to, artistically and through community engagement. 

Ghost Waters will bring the cause of water consciousness to the U.S. Social Forum, held in Detroit June 22-26, with a Procession of the Species Parade, art activities for youth, and the Savoyard Creek’s River Resurgence Pageant - where all are invited to participate in creating puppets that depict the hidden Savoyard Creek, still located below Congress Street. 

Thanks in part to funds received from The Erb Family Foundation, The Kresge Community Arts Foundation, and The Skillman Foundation, Ghost Waters continues through summer 2012. 

At its start in early 2010, Matrix School of Theatre students began incorporating recycled puppets, environmental themes and education about the forgotten waters into their work, which was featured in a showcase on World Water Day, March 22. An April field trip to Humbug Marsh gave participants a hands-on look at what Detroit’s ecosystems used to look like. 

“We are at a pivot point with young people in terms of envisioning a new future for the city. And without some deeper knowledge about what the city is beneath its mantel of industrialism we cannot make an appropriate choice. People see outdoors not as nature, but as a negative - as dirty and bad. This was once a hyper-rich and productive ecosystem, and now there are 40 square-miles of vacant land in the city, but people still have trouble seeing a future,” said Dr. Shaun Nethercott, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Matrix. 

Ghost Waters is a project that requires the creativity and commitment of the community to succeed. Anyone seeking to get involved in field trips, parades, puppet building projects or events should contact Matrix Theatre Company’s Volunteer Coordinator Ken Srdjak at or at 313-967-0999.

Matrix Theatre Company is a non-profit community-based theatre located in Southwest Detroit. Established in 1991, Matrix creates everything from scratch, from puppets of all sizes to over 90 original plays. Matrix Theatre Company uses the transformative power of theatre to change lives, build community and foster social justice. It creates opportunities for children, youth, adults and elders, especially those in isolated or challenged communities, to become creators, producers and audiences of original theatre. For further information or to follow Matrix on Facebook, Twitter and Blogger, go to

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