Comments Are Being Accepted On The “Over The River” Arkansas River Project By International Artists Christo And Jeanne-Claude

The “Over The River” project is a proposed art installation by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude involving translucent panels of fabric that would be strung from cables spanning the Arkansas River in south-central Colorado.  You may have noticed recent AT&T commercials where people are draping orange fabric over various structures and land forms.  That is the signature artistic element associated with Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Specifically, for Over The River, Christo (Jeanne-Claude recently passed away) proposes installing a total of 5.9 miles of silvery, translucent, luminous fabric panels horizontally over eight portions of a 40-mile stretch of the river between Salida and Cañon City.  The exhibit would remain in place for two weeks in the summer 2013 (if all goes well for its proponents) before being removed and the materials recycled.

My first thought was that the whole thing is a silly waste of time and money.  But several weeks ago my wife dragged me to a presentation by Christo regarding the project.  It is actually much more interesting than I anticipated.

First, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have done some pretty crazy installations before, including The Gates, where they installed 7,503 seven-foot long saffron-colored fabric panels suspended from 16-foot-high “gates” along 23 miles of walkways in Central Park, and Wrapped Reichstag, in which they used 1 million square feet of aluminum-coated fabric and 50,000 feet of rope to literally wrap the Reichstag building in Germany.  So Christo can actually pull this kind of thing off.

Second, your mileage may vary, but the effect can be pretty interesting.  My reaction to The Gates was meh, but the Wrapped Reichstag looked pretty cool, and some of the other projects are even better.  Check them out here.  Floating down the river on a raft under the Over The River project would be very cool.

Third, the most important and impressive thing to me is how they fund this stuff:

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have never accepted, nor will Christo accept in the future, any subsidies, royalties, grants, or sponsorships of any kind for their temporary public works of art.  Similarly, the artists do not make any endorsements of businesses, products, political movements, other artists, or anything else.  All of the artists’ income is derived from the sale of original works of art by Christo to private collectors, galleries and museums. 

Seriously.  This is not an NEA-sponsored boondoggle. 

And we are not talking chump change.  The public works cost millions of dollars.  For example, if I remember correctly, the permitting and environmental review process for Over The River has already cost over $1 Million, and the total expense of the project will be tens of million dollars.

Fourth, the projects also take perseverance over years or even decades to bring to fruition.  The planning and approval process for The Gates, for example, lasted 26 years and, for Wrapped Reichstag it was 23 years.  Over The River has been planned for at least a decade already.

The temporary installations are then destroyed after just two weeks.  Christo won’t even sell the fabric bits as souvenirs because, as he said at the lecture I attended (paraphrasing here), “7,500 gates in Central Park is a work of art; one is not.”  Love it or hate it, that kind of devotion to a vision is impressive.

Fifth, there is no question that Christo and Jeanne-Claude are internationally-renowned artists.  Hell, sales of Christo’s original artwork funds these massive projects.  That popularity and respect means an expected 300,000+ visitors over the two-week display period, and over 400,000 over the life of the project. 

The proposed project area is a place I know well.  My wife and I own property just outside of Howard, Colorado, which is right in the heart of the affected area.  Although that part of the Arkansas River is scenic, it is also anything but wild.  U.S. Highway 50 and the Union Pacific Railroad parallel the river through the entire project area, with Highway 50 on one side and the railroad on the other.  Therefore, river access is already in place and the additional environmental impacts of the temporary installation should be minimal.

Anyway, I am writing all of this because the Bureau of Land Management is now accepting comments on the Over The River Draft Environmental Impact Statement as part of the permitting process for the project.  The 45-day comment period has been extended to September 14.  Anyone who would like to see this project come to life should submit comments using one of several methods available here.  Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s original artistic vision is described as Alternative 1a in the Draft EIS.

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Published in: on August 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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