Christo’s talent and determination has paid off as he received the green light for his ambitious art installation Over the River. Located over the Arkansas River in Southern Colorado, the project will drape a silvery plume of fabric over a 5.9 mile stretch of the river for 14 days. He has a long history of installation in Colorado, but like so many of his past projects, Over the River is dogged with controversy surrounding its importance, and environmental and aesthetic impact -- a fact that Christo seems to relish.
The self-funded project dates back to 1992, with the vision of filling a valley river with a canopy of flowing silver fabric. After engineering tests, prototypes, environmental reports, many public meetings through the state, and heated debate in the community, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to issue a temporary use permit. The project is scheduled to be installed during the month of August 2015, and it is projected to bring in $200 million in economic activity for Colorado.
Like so many of Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s projects, Over the River is not only massive in scope, but a war of wills between local Salida residents and the artists. His aggressive approach and significant vision have turned many locals off in the town who fear the environmental damage and crush of tourists will blemish the character and safety of the community. Environmental reports have not found issues with the design, but the controversy will continue.
Christo acknowledged as much at a town hall meeting, noting “Opponents create dynamics which shape the project and how it looks.” In fact, Christo seems to flourish on the controversy and overcoming the odds with a long history of facing bureaucrats — from the chancellor of Germany to complete the wrapping of the Reichstag to the mayor of New York City to install Gates in Central Park, and countless local citizens.
Over the River will be made from his trademark fabric which will run in sections a few hundred feet at a time and placed 8 to 25 feet above the river. 8,992 temporary concrete anchors will support the wires draped over the river. The site along the Arkansas River was chosen amoung 89 potential sites in the state for its beauty and accessibility. A highway runs on one side, train tracks on the other, and the stretch of river is very popular for rafting. Like it or not, Colorado and the world will be getting one hell of an art experience, and like so many of Christo’s previous works, the naysayers may be proven to be speechless when the art piece is realized.
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Photos and drawings © Christo and Jeanne-Claude