"Jean-Claude is with me always."
--Christo, on the recent death of his lifelong artistic partner and wife, Jean-Claude (They were born on the same date: June 13, 1935.)
A few months goes by and I receive an email reminder to get my butt downtown, pronto. So I hopped on my bike and arrived at the Seawell Grand Ballroom, sweaty but curious, about what brought Christo to Denver.
"Over the River", it will consist of 5.9 miles of silvery fabric suspended over the Arkansas River along a 40-mile stretch between Salida and Cañon City. The temporary exhibit is slated for two weeks in summer 2013. And yes, it will be high enough from the river (15-18 feet) that folks can float under it. Very cool.
Christo, a delicate gentleman with Bulgarian roots and a shock of white frizzy hair, could not have been more gracious and open. He gave a detailed slide presentation that offered full explanations on his personal life, how projects are created and financed, the full blueprint of the OTR project and details on the many, many, many meetings he must attend with governmental agencies to secure all the proper permits. (At one meeting, Christo, Jean-Claude and their team are seated across from tie-wearing representatives from 11 different U.S. agencies.)
I can't remember that initial question but when I got greedy and returned for a second question, Christo laughed at me: "You again???" I simply wanted to know if, with all these large-scale global projects, it made him see the world differently - like one big canvas.
Also, was he setting his sights on the moon? He chuckled in his response: "Funny you should mention it. Jean-Claude was once asked that question and she said we would create a space project once other people are more established there."
The public meeting lasted over two hours and I'm so glad I went. Not only will OTR will bring increased tourism to the region and global focus to Colorado but it's a real community-builder. Before even getting started on this project, Christo went to the small towns along the river and made his proposal to the residents, disclosing every detail. "Without the support of the local communities, the project would not exist," he said simply. "This should be a celebration, not an intrusion."
Despite being mobbed by fans after the event, I ended up riding the escalator with the charming artist. I told him I couldn't wait to float under OTR and I'd hoped we hadn't overwhelmed him. "Not at all," he said, "I appreciate the support and thank you for your questions."
With that, I hopped on my bike and rode home along Cherry Creek, thrilled all over again to be in Colorado where strange things sometimes happen - like internationally famous artists bowing to sweaty citizens.