Whether you think Christo’s “Over the River” project is good art or bad art, or whether you just think it might give Colorado tourism a boost, the fact is that the artist’s idea remains a part of the conversation.
That is exactly what Christo is looking for.
The famed artist was in Canon City Tuesday as he and his entourage of experts were trying to persuade the Fremont County Commission to grant a use permit for the artwork, which would drape fabric over a 5.9-mile stretch over the Arkansas River between Canon City and Salida. Christo hopes the project will be in place for two weeks in August 2014.
Fremont and Chaffee counties must grant permission and it looks like they will. The governor, chambers of commerce and many elected officials are behind it.
A few still oppose it, especially those who live along the Arkansas River and say they will be inconvenienced by the traffic and noise the project will create. Their concerns are real, but appear outweighed by widespread support.
Christo embraces all of it — even those who laugh at his art. He is accustomed to decades-long debates such as the one we’re witnessing now.
“Of course it’s part of the art,” Christo said in an interview. “Thousands of people discussing the art for many years before it is there. What artist gets to have his art discussed for 20 years before it is created?”
As dozens of people assembled for the county commission meeting, Christo said news of the event (the New York Times was there) is important, and not just for keeping him in the limelight. “They’re discussing art,” Christo said. “Not a power line or a dam.”
True enough: We live in a world where the public debate often revolves around bridges to nowhere, or energy pipelines spanning the globe. Cuts to music and arts education in public schools have become the norm.
If you say it’s crazy to work for 20 years on a project that will last two weeks, that is fine. The second you say you care one way or the other Christo, and art, win.
When “Over the River” is exhibited people will come from around the world, and it will be on thousands of web sites and telecasts, giving free advertising to Colorado. Beyond art, it’s money.
Fremont County resident Rudl Mergelman believes the economic impact will be fantastic. He doesn’t fully understand Christo’s art. Yet when Mergelman spoke, the words came out like poetry: “The Arkansas River has nurtured this region for millions of years. Her abundant gifts to include the canyon, the gorge, the fertile Arkansas Valley and the beauty of the river itself. And now in a very intriguing and perplexing way, she offers to help us once again.”
Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays. Look for blog updates at gazette.comblogs barrysblog and his videos at gazette.com