Oct 142009
Authors: Anna Baldwin

For two weeks, sometime within the next couple of years, there will be almost six miles of fabric panels suspended above 40 miles of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City in Colorado. This work of art will be called “Over the River.”

It is the current work in progress for internationally renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who will give a presentation at 6:30 p.m. tonight, in the Griffin Concert Hall at the University Center for the Arts.

Best known for their large-scale environmental works, the married couple accepts no donations or sponsorships for the temporary art, only seeking permission for each project, which they fund through selling original works and lithographs.

Also, the two artists do not accept volunteers to help create pieces, instead hiring and paying each person devoted to the project. According to the couple’s Web site, Christo and Jeanne-Claude do this to ensure the art is not compromised or influenced in any way and they have absolute freedom.

David Yust, a professor in the Art Department, worked for two of the artists’ projects.

“It left an extraordinarily positive impression on me, and I thought about it every day for the next couple of years after,” Yust said about his work on “The Islands” in the early 1980s. “The projects are really about freedom, and the only real way to do that is to take no donations.”

Yust also worked in 2005 as a monitor and middleman for another project, “The Gates,” in New York City’s Central Park.

Linny Frickman, director of the University Art Museum, described Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art as incredibly hopeful projects that very much involve people and the economy with a positive societal outcome for all.

“It’s art that is extremely caring of other people and the community,” Frickman said in a phone interview. “It attempts to give back and bring new things to both the people and landscape.”

Though each Christo and Jeanne-Claude creation is temporary, some only standing for two weeks at a time, the entire process of the project takes an extensive amount of time, Frickman said.

It took 26 years for the artists to gain permission for “The Gates” project, Yust said.

“What is really important to them is the question of ‘What is art?’ and working with the environment and the government,” Frickman said. “They make people evaluate art, and they see the time when the project is actually constructed as just one small part of this.”

The “Over the River?Proxy-Connection: keep-alive

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0? project will be the second project that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have constructed in Colorado and is expected to be finished in time to premiere in the summer of 2013. The artists’ first project in the state was the “Valley Curtain” project in the early ’70s.

The presentation at the UCA will include a lecture followed by a question and answer portion with the audience. Frickman said the artists feel that art is about dialogue, and so the audience is the most crucial part of the evening.

Senior social work and photography major Rachel Pavek learned about the artists in a class and is excited to attend the presentation.

“I was really impressed that it seems that the public element is very important to them,” Pavek said. “I also like the added element of environmental artwork, and I am curious to hear about the ‘Over the River’ project.”

Yust said the university is lucky to have Christo and Jeanne-Claude back on campus since their first visit in the early ’80s — a more than a decade-long endeavor.

“Their lives are totally devoted to the artwork that they do, and they are very busy people,” Yust said. “There is really no other reason for them to do what they do, except to see it for themselves and as a gift for the world.”

Staff writer Anna Baldwin can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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