Christo river art project finds opponents
July 9, 2009
SALIDA, Colo. – Two noted public artists planning to cover parts of the Arkansas River with flowing fabric are finding not everyone in Colorado likes the idea.
New York artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude have started three days of public information sessions on the $50 million “Over The River” project. The artists are known for dramatic fabric art installations such as wrapping the German Reichstag in Berlin and adorning New York’s Central Park with golden banners.
The Colorado project is planned for 2013 and would put nearly 6 miles of translucent fabric panels suspended in eight sections above a 34-mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City. The project has the support of Colorado’s congressional delegation, and most people who met the artists at Wednesday’s meeting praised the idea.
“As an artist, you have to be supportive,” said Patrick Espy, an architect who traveled from Avon to meet Jeanne-Claude and Christo. “I’m really excited about it.”
The project’s cost would be entirely covered by the sale of Christo’s art.
But a group of opponents called Rags Over the Arkansas River has lodged its opposition with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which must sign off on the art installation.
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Opponents say the installation will bring too much traffic to the rural area. Other opponents fear the fabric panels could harm the river if any fell in, or that the fluttering fabric would distract drivers on nearby roads.
“I hate the idea of this project. It’s ugly,” Gary Golden of Howard told The Pueblo Chieftain. Golden and his wife feared the installation wouldn’t stand up in the area’s high winds.
The artists brought a project engineer to address concerns. Engineer Vince Davenport, said that inch-thick cables would support four times the projected maximum wind stress on the fabric panels.
The BLM has hired a contractor to analyze the environmental impacts of the “Over The River.” A decision on whether to allow it is expected in 2011.
More public meetings were planned in Fremont, Canon City and Howard.