Oct 152009
Authors: Nic Turiciano

Griffin Rasel, a senior psychology and human development major, had never heard of Christo and Jeanne-Claude before Thursday afternoon. Neither had Kyle Hoffmeister, a sophomore civil engineering major.

But the University Center for the Art’s Griffin Concert Hall, which seats 550 people, filled to capacity Thursday night to see the world-renown artists, most famously know for their work wrapping Paris’ Pont Neuf bridge in fabric and placing 7,503 orange gates in New York’s Central Park, present a lecture to the CSU community.

The event, held as a gift from Christo and Jeanne-Claude to the university, educated the crowd on their artwork, specifically the upcoming project “Over the River,” which is set to cover a 40-mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City.

Christo, who’s wife Jeanne-Claude did not attend the lecture after suffering a bone fracture, outlined their plan to place 5.9 miles worth of fabric above the river in eight segments. The project is estimated to be on display during a two-week period between July and August in 2013 at the earliest.

Their use of fabric, according to their Web site, is to illustrate “things that cannot usually be seen, like the wind blowing or the sun reflecting in ways it had not before.”

They maintain, however, that their works often do not involve the use of wrapping or fabrics.

A crowd of more than 60 people, who didn’t get a ticket by the time they were sold out two hours after they went on sale two weeks ago, gathered about an hour before the event started to gain admittance to the display.

Paul Wilson was one of more than 60 people on the waiting list. Wilson, a contemporary art professor at the University of Denver, drove from Denver to Fort Collins for the opportunity to listen to Christo speak.

“What’s more interesting is how they characterize their work and how they interact with the public audience since that’s a big part of their work, building coalitions around their work and getting other people excited about it,” Wilson said.

Lane Dukart, a CSU alumnus and architectural ceramicist, said he felt the need to expose his family to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work, adding he was also interested in “Over the River” project.

“I’m fascinated by (the ‘Over the River’ project). I haven’t really dug into the nitty-gritty with what the codes are and how it might affect the wildlife, but I’d love to see a project in Colorado and would probably volunteer.”

But according to Christojeanneclaude.net, the couple’s Web site, they do not accept volunteers, instead paying each worker because they “firmly believe that to accept deals of this kind would alter and compromise their art.”

Not everyone, however, was excited about the upcoming “Over the River” project. Brittany Goble, a senior environmental communications and horticulture major, protested outside of the UCA before the lecture.

Goble, who is a native of the Salida area, said she enjoyed Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work but is concerned about the lasting effects that the project could have on the environment and wildlife.

“I just think it’s awful that people that I definitely recognize as artists can leave such a huge impact on an area that is vastly negative,” Goble said.

During the lecture, Christo did not discuss the impacts of the project on the local environment, and stuck to the topic of art and artists.

“Artists don’t retire, they die,” Christo said in his lecture.

Staff writer Nic Turiciano can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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