See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

You won't believe this Chene Park art project from 30 years ago

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 12:44 PM

click to enlarge Crews assemble the artwork "Floating River" in June of 1986. - COURTESY MARTIN HATCHER
  • Courtesy Martin Hatcher
  • Crews assemble the artwork "Floating River" in June of 1986.

We received a nice note from an artist named Martin Hatcher, a CCS grad and former Detroiter who now lives in Albany. He wrote us to mention that, almost 30 years ago, he put in a temporary art installation in Chene Park as part of "Artists Interpret the River," a seasonal art series that saw the riverfront turned over to artists. Perhaps Hatcher wouldn't mind his "Floating River" being called an "environmental work of art," as it applies to other large-scale projects in which natural or man-made features are adorned with colorful materials. He sent us along a short clip of the artwork, along with an announcement that marks the three-decade interval since it happened. The project, which required 1,000 Mylar balloons, really has to be seen in motion to be appreciated.

Floating River from Metro Times on Vimeo.

Hatcher writes:
If visitors to Chene Park on the day of the upcoming solstice remember the site as it was 30 years ago, they may imagine that reflected glints off the water are ghosts of an art installation. “Floating River,” composed of 1000 Mylar balloons, shimmered at the edge of the pond through the weekend of June 20-22, 1986. In this inaugural work of a summer-long series entitled “Artists Interpret the Riverfront,” sculptor Martin Hatcher created a “non-existing, undividing, non-drowning wall, border, barrier.” Using the unthreatening material of silver balloons, Hatcher sought to visually address the many divisions — geographic, racial, economic — facing those who live along the straits below Lake St. Clair. Three decades riverfront visitors may ponder new ways to address those same issues.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit