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Christo Abandons Controversial 'Over The River' Installation

Courtesy of Wolfgang Voltz/Christo 2007
The installation 'Over the River' would have been on display for two weeks and taken two years to put up.

After almost 20 years of dreaming, designing and defending, internationally-renowned artist Christo says he is abandoning plans for a controversial art exhibition in Colorado.

The "Over the River" art installation would have draped translucent fabric over a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City.

Opponents have been battling the project in court for more than five years.

The organization Rags Over the Arkansas River, or ROAR, argued the project would damage the environment and cause severe disruptions to the lives of the people who live there. "Over the River" would have taken two years to install and been on display for two weeks.

“We are so happy that finally we can sort of heave a sigh of relief and say, OK, the river and the canyon and the wildlife and fish will all be safe from Christo now,” said Joan Anzelmo, a ROAR spokesperson.

Christo, known for these types of large-scale installations, posted on a website for the project saying he doesn’t want to wait any longer for a court decision on "Over the River."

“I have decided to devote all of my energy, time and resources into the realization of 'The Mastaba,' Project for Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which Jeanne-Claude and I conceived 40 years ago,” he wrote. “I have been fortunate to work with many dedicated Colorado residents as well as Federal and State agencies who have been a part of 'Over The River.' I am grateful to everyone who was part of this journey.”

Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, proposed the project in 1996. Jeanne-Claude died in 2009.

Stacy was KUNC's arts and culture reporter from 2015 to 2021.