MSU exhibit 'DEPTH' explores our ties to water at Michigan Science Center

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News
Artist Heather Beardsley created sea creatures from recycled plastic bags and cyanotype art as part of Science Gallery Detroit’s “DEPTH” at the Michigan Science Center.

A new exhibition on our relationship to water, "DEPTH," opens Saturday at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. The show closes Aug. 17. 

Organized by Michigan State University's Science Gallery Detroit, the show will explore the power of this resource, with an aim of stimulating interest in both science and art, particularly among young adults 15-25 years old. 

The exhibition, with more than 25 interactive installations, is free and includes free general admission to the Science Center. (General admission is free for everyone through the "DEPTH" run, all part of the museum's "Summer of Science" program. Order "DEPTH" tickets online at the site for Michigan Science Center or the Science Gallery Detroit.)

It will be staffed by young-adult mediators who will augment visitors' experience with short storytelling exercises to animate the displays. 

"Water is one of those grand challenges the planet faces," said Science Gallery Detroit Director Jeff Grabill, who's also MSU associate provost for teaching, learning and technology. "How do we understand our relationship to it, our future given its scarcity, and issues of pollution and climate change?"


The exhibition's topic, he says, was a natural for the Great Lakes state. "We sit on about 20 percent of world’s water reserves," Grabill said, "but we’ve managed to poison our own citizens And how do you explain that?"

Among the exhibits are "Along the River of Spacetime," in which MSU Prof. Elizabeth LaPensee creates a virtual-reality game connecting Native American Anishinaabeg teachings and efforts to restore rivers and eco-systems. 

"That's going to be spectacular," Grabill said. "The exhibit walks people through Anishinaabeg orientations to water – how they understand it culturally and socially."

"Sound Mural of Detroit" features what he called a "crazy array of copper piping" that rises three stories up a Science Center stairway. 

Open any of the many spigots along the way, Grabill added, "and you’ll hear a story or poem written by a Detroit schoolchild about their relationship to water. And some of those poems are jaw-dropping." 

"Detroit Water Portrait" features clear prisms filled with mud and water collected around the city, and will exhibit ever-changing gradients of color as microbial life in the mud grows and flourishes. 

"Green Steward" by Matthew Seaton is part of the MSU "DEPTH" exhibition at Michigan Science Center.

And floating overhead is a large "jellyfish" made of plastic bags hanging from the ceiling that invokes the pervasive presence of plastic throughout the world's oceans, and the danger it presents to wildlife. 

This is MSU Science Gallery Detroit's second exhibition. The first, "Hustle" -- which examined how humans and other species thrive and flourish -- was mounted last year at 1001 Woodward in Detroit. 

The Science Gallery is part of an international consortium of public science centers affiliated with great universities. When Ireland's Science Gallery Dublin, connect to Trinity College, opened its exhibition, Grabill notes, some 400,000 people poured through it. 

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy


June 8-Aug. 17

Michigan Science Center, 5020 John R, Detroit

Free - includes free general admission to Michigan Science Center 

10 a.m. -5 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. & Sat; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri; noon-5 p.m. Sun.

 (313) 577-8400