Sunday, January 27, 2013

Keeping it Light- A Liberal's Conundrum

I am going to make this short and sweet, because I am preoccupied this weekend. I really wanted to try to post something every day, (yes, I missed yesterday,) so I'm going to keep this post light and local. 

I love art. I love art of all kinds, and believe strongly that we don't put enough of an emphasis on its importance in schools. We tend to think of those who have chosen art as a career as lazy people who cannot commit to reality, and portray them as not driven enough/not smart enough/not normal enough to succeed. (Succeed from a financial standpoint, of course, because that's all that really matters.)

Because I have always been around art, (I have even been known to barter haircuts for ceramics, paintings, and knitted items,) I am torn about the artist Christo's plans to suspend fabric over part of the Arkansas River between Canyon City and Salida. To be clear, I am not torn about whether or not I think he should be able to do it- I am torn because I feel like a traitor to the art community. I think if the Bureau of Land Management permits this installation, named Over the River, it will be a mistake.

Christo standing in front of plans for Over the River.
taken from
Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude have done some amazing installations in the past. I remember when I saw some of their work for the first time in 2005 and was amazed at its impact. I loved The Gates, an installation in Central Park in New York City, very much, and think of its beauty almost every time I am in a park walking along the winding paths. The nature of their work (now his work,) is that it takes years to accomplish, and is usually only installed for a very short period of time.  Over the River, if approved, will be installed in Colorado for only two weeks.

What it might look like if it ever

taken from
Have I made the case that I appreciate art, love artists, and think Christo's work is amazing? I hope so, because the true artists out there are not going to like what I have to say. The Bureau of Land Management prepared an Environmental Impact Statement on the project. Its completion took three years, and required input from federal, state, and local agencies, as well as residents of the region. The BLM approved Christo's vision in November of 2011, citing the economic benefits to the area, (it is expected to draw $121million,) and the uniqueness of the project. The EIS also states that there will be an estimate 400,000 people who will either help with the installation (over a two year period,) or come to Colorado to view it for the two weeks it is installed. Here is where my first problem lies- 400,000 is a whole lot of people to be walking/eating/driving around this otherwise somewhat remote area. I am not the only one who objects- there are currently two law-suits and one administrative appeal pending.

Who are you people, and what is all that crap you
are draping over my river? 

In chapter 3 of the Environmental Impact Statement, there is a lot of discussion about the harm that will likely be done to animals who live near the river. 400,000 new people in the area? That's a lot of stressed out little critters.

Am I way off here? Do you think the two year commitment that will have to be made by residents in the area and the negative environmental impact is worth the $121million in economic output and overall amazingness of this  installation? Maybe my bologna-meter is off, but I just don't think it is worth it. What do you think?

Talk about a liberal conundrum- Having to choose between art and the environment? It's like having to choose which of your children you love the most!


  1. The environment will bounce back (hopefully). I think the community will have to aid in that, and not leave it to heal itself. I believe this project is totally worth it. For the reasons you have listed as well as bringing more people to enjoy the outdoors and the beauty that Colorado has to offer. I went and heard Christo and his wife speak about this years ago and have been excited to follow the reports. I wish I was able to volunteer on the project, but I do hope I am lucky enough to see it for myself. I see your point, and I totally know your internal struggle here. It's not bologna, it's art.

    1. Yep- it's impossible to decide how I feel. I think I would rather forgo the art than to *hope* the environment will bounce back... I also think Christo and his wife have done some amazing things, but I just can't seem to get behind this. It's the NIMBY syndrome, perhaps, but most of their other installations seem to have done less damage than this one will. I don't want more people to enjoy Colorado! I want to keep it a secret allll for myself.