Tags: Christo | art | Colorado | River

Concern for Sheep May Shear Christo's Colo. River Art Project

Wednesday, 18 May 2011 03:57 PM

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The sensitivities of wild sheep will figure into federal approval of a work by the landscape-draping artist Christo, who wants to spend $50 million to adorn a section of a Colorado waterway in see-through fabric, The New York Times reports.

The six-mile stretch of the Arkansas River is also home to several hundred bighorn sheep, and debate has intensified over whether Christo’s installation, entitled “Over the River,” will traumatize the woolly beasts.

Federal land managers’ decision, expected in August or September, awaits an environmental impact study on the project.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the project as a boon to tourism. But the Colorado Wildlife Commission voted unanimously last week to urge the government to deny Christo a permit, notwithstanding the acclaim for past installations, including a wrapped bridge in Paris and colored gates in New York’s Central Park.

“Somebody has to weigh — is the artistic expression more important than an ecosystem?” said Robert Streeter, the state wildlife commission’s vice chairman.

Some experts counter that the bighorn sheep has adapted ably to such man-made incursions as truck traffic, hunting, and camping, so an art installation shouldn’t be a problem. But it may be anybody’s guess as to how Colorado’s state animal will respond to a giant swatch of translucent fabric mounted on poles over the river canyon.

“There will be a little bit of shade in August, and it might be a nice place to munch grass under,” said Merle Baranczyk, editor of The Mountain Mail, a Salida, Colo., newspaper.

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