Art Review

"Over the River" wins out against Rags Over the Arkansas River

As someone who has long been a champion for art in Colorado, you can imagine how delighted I was when, on July 16, the Bureau of Land Management greenlighted — with many required changes and provisos — the building of Christo's "Over the River" along the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City. The conceptual environmental piece involves stretching canopies from bank to bank intermittently along the river's course. The canopies will be covered in silvery fabric that will be translucent so that people underneath them will be able to see the sky. "Over the River" marks the second time that Christo — along with his wife, the late Jeanne-Claude — chose Colorado as a site for one of his pieces, the first having been "Valley Curtain," created in the early 1970s near the town of Rifle.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude came up with the idea of "Over the River" nearly two decades ago, and, after considering more than twenty rivers around the world, selected this stretch of the Arkansas. They made this choice for a number of reasons, but chief among them was the fact that a highway runs along the river, so that viewers will be able to take in the miles-long piece during the two short weeks in 2014 that it will be up.

There are still some hurdles for Christo to jump, however — notably, a lawsuit filed by the opposition group Rags Over the Arkansas River and others against the Colorado Parks and Wildlife board, which had previously granted an okay. And while there are some among the project's detractors who have a genuine interest in environmental protection (despite the pre-existing highway and rail line), I think most are simply art-haters.

My opinion on this is based on the group's materials. After all, if you begin by naming your organization "Rags Over the Arkansas River," you have no interest in civil discourse. That ROAR crowd, as they've nicknamed themselves, strike me as the anti-art cousins of the right-wing teabaggers from the political realm. And, come to think of it, that's a mighty conservative area down there.