Construction of the proposed "Over the River" project in Colorado is on hold pending legal challenges, but artist Christo said Wednesday his team is doing other work so he can one day suspend nearly six miles worth of silvery fabric in sections over the Arkansas River.
Railroad tracks are being cleared along the project route that traces U.S. 50 between Canon City and Salida, and work is beginning to mitigate impacts to bighorn sheep.
Christo is also preparing for his upcoming exhibit in Oberhausen in Germany of "Big Air Package," a 295-foot air-filled fabric bubble that will help raise funds for Over the River, which has cost $13 million so far.
As envisioned by Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, Over the River would be displayed for two weeks in late summer. The earliest it could be displayed is August 2016, but even that timeline may be unlikely.
The Bureau of Land Management's approval of a permit for it is being appealed, and a group called Rags Over the Arkansas River has filed lawsuits challenging permit approvals by the BLM and Colorado State Parks.
Opponents contend the project poses environmental, safety, traffic and economic risks and will require more than two years of industrial-scale construction work. Christo's team has said it plans dozens of measures to mitigate impacts.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's massive projects have survived delays before.
"I don't consider it a pause," Christo said. "It's part of the dynamics of the project."
During the work on Over the River, he also is actively working on The Mastaba, a giant sculpture of 410,000 barrels planned for Abu Dhabi that he conceived in 1977. Because he is 77, Christo said he is trying to complete both projects simultaneously rather than focusing on one at a time.
Christo was in Denver for an exhibit Wednesday at Metropolitan State University of Denver's Center for Visual Art of two sketches he donated to Colorado.