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Christo on the Arkansas River—the planned site of the artist's contentious "Over The River" project—in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Wolfgang Volz)

Christo’s “Over The River” Project Moves Forward—Slowly

The controversial artist's Arkansas River project has just one more legal hurdle in its path.

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World-renowned artist Christo’s persistence may be paying off. Recently, “Over The River“—a public art installation planned for the Arkansas River—cleared its second-to-last legal hurdle when the Colorado Supreme Court rejected any further challenges to an agreement with Colorado State Parks that authorized the work to move forward. (The only remaining stage—unless the U.S. Supreme Court is brought into the fold—relates to the U.S. Court of Appeals and is still being heard.)

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It was fortuitous timing as the artist was in town to give a number of lectures on his work and his current project (his first in more than a decade and the first without his late wife Jeanne-Claude): “The Floating Piers,” an installation of 750,000 square feet of yellow fabric and a floating dock will be placed on Lake Iseo in Italy from June 18 to July 3, 2016 (a drawing of the project is pictured at right). Christo views these conversations as necessary steps in getting permission for his often-contentious projects because they educate communities about what he’s trying to do.

In a talk at Denver School of the Arts (DSA), the 80-year-old emphasized tenacity and vision. “Floating Piers” was first proposed in 1971. Conversations about “Over The River” began in the early 1990s; over three summers, his team traveled 25,000 miles to investigate the potential of 89 different rivers. Of 37 projects not yet achieved, he’s still trying to realize 14.

His words encouraged students to think beyond the canvas or pottery wheel. As he told me beforehand, “Art is impossible to teach. There are no rules.”

“The struggles and work that goes into making his vision possible is important for students to hear,” says Deb Rosenbaum, visual arts director at DSA. Seventeen-year-old senior Danielle agreed: “Art helps me see things I wouldn’t see otherwise—it’s important in that aspect. Art really can help others and help you learn about yourself.”

Christo’s protracted projects may not be every student’s dream, but they can certainly learn from his diverse and accomplished career. Though Christo wouldn’t call it that. “Art is not a profession,” he told me. “You don’t work with art—you live.”

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(Read more about Christo and “Over The River”)

On View: See the artwork behind the installations at Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Tom Golden Collection at Loveland Museum/Gallery (through January 17, 2016); admission is $5.

Inset image: Photo by André Grossmann, © Christo 2014

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