TOWN HALL: DU students try to stop Christo (poll)

WAYNE LAUGESEN Updated: February 1, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: February 1, 2012

A group of student lawyers at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law are suing on behalf of a group called “Rags Over the Arkansas River,” in an effort to stop world-renowned artist Christo from stretching fabric over parts of the Arkansas to create a fabulous, temporary art display that will go down in history. Plaintiffs claim the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated federal environmental laws when it issued a decision last year allowing Christo’s “Over the River” project.

The lawsuit, a project of the law school’s Environmental Law Clinic, ought to be withdrawn or laughed out of court. The student lawyers of record are Mason Brown and Justine Shepherd, overseen by professor Michael Harris.

The $50 million project, funded by Christo, will span 5.9 miles of the 42-mile Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Materials used for the project will be recycled. BLM approval came after the drafting and re-drafting of a painstaking and lengthy environmental impact statement. Other hurdles involve pending approvals from two counties, the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Transportation. Construction is expected to begin this year, with the final work on display for two weeks in August 2014.

It will bring attention and money to Colorado, as people travel here from around the world to see it. Art is good. It enriches humanity and gives glory to God’s creation. Art celebrates humanity’s role in nature.

The only thing more creative than Christo’s proposed display are the mostly absurd obstacles opponents have contrived to throw in his path. They fret about traffic jams and claim that a strip of fabric will somehow do immense harm to animals and vegetation that have survived highway construction and centuries of droughts, floods and human migration along the river.

Opponents, including those who sponsor this lawsuit, seem opposed to free expression, art, happiness and progress. They somehow view a $50 million contribution, by an famous and impassioned artist, as a liability.

Those who live along the Arkansas may have their lives disrupted for a short time, but the project will leave memories and a legacy that will last for generations. A polite, constructive and prosperous society requires that each of us sets aside personal concerns, and tolerate temporary inconveniences — even momentary injustices — in order that others may carry out their goals and dreams.

Should Christo Christo's "Over the River" be allowed. Vote in poll to the right. Must vote to see results.

Those who complain of the traffic this art may generate are traffic generators themselves. If they weren’t, they would not be concerned about the prospect of waiting in traffic. Unlike Christo, whose endeavor will temporarily cause traffic, those who live along the Arkansas cause traffic and challenges for wildlife each and every day, for years on end.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of our great free republic. Our First Amendment protects nearly all forms of public expression, and no such communication is made without detrimental affects on involuntary bystanders. Free speech requires that each of us tolerates and facilitates those who choose to exercise it.

Withdraw this lawsuit. It is anti-art, anti-prosperity and anti-free speech. It is no good way for law students, who are too young to be so negative cynical, to use our courts.

That's our view. What's yours? Please initiate or join in a Facebook discussion below, and vote in poll to the upper right.

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