Not everyone is mourning demise of epic Arkansas River art project
Author: Dan Njegomir - January 25, 2017 - Updated: June 6, 2017
To the New York Times, the abrupt decision this week by art legend Christo to call off his decades-long, legally contested effort to erect his proposed “Over the River” project along a stretch of the Arkansas near Cañon City is yet another manifestation of “the culture world’s war against Donald J. Trump.”
Indeed, most of the Times’s account of the development is devoted to reactions from that same “culture world” about the demise of the 81-year-old artist’s plan to hang six miles of fabric panels over the river for two weeks. Those reactions amounted to a mix of mourning over the project’s premature end and approval at Christo’s professed reason for pulling out: to lodge a protest against the newly elected landlord in chief of the federal property on which the exhibit was to be mounted.
Absent from much of the story was any input from the Coloradans who actually would have hosted the spectacle. Tucked away near the very bottom of the report in today’s Times, however, was this:
On Wednesday, Joan Anzelmo, a spokeswoman for ROAR, said it was “ecstatic” to hear of the decision, no matter what the artist’s reasons. “This means local people will now be protected,” she said, “as well as wildlife, birds and fish.”
ROAR stands for Rags Over the Arkansas River, which as The Times noted, had fought the project. ROAR had contended that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, in approving the project, failed to sufficiently account for its impact on bighorn sheep and impact on traffic on U.S. Hwy. 50 along the river. The project had in fact been held up for years by court challenges.
“Over the River” did hold the promise of tourism dollars for locals in a part of southern Colorado long tied to the tourist economy. Yet, even one of those locals who did support the project for its economic-development potential — Colorado state Senate President Kevin Grantham, whom we contacted this afternoon for comment — seemed philosophical rather than grief-stricken.
“It’s unfortunate that we won’t be seeing the potential economic benefits of this project in future years, but it’s also a relief to have the issue behind us,” the Cañon City Republican said. “I wish Christo well in his other endeavors.”
In Colorado, at least, life will go on.