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Artist Wraps Up Sidewalk Work

DATE OF EVENT: Monday, Oct. 4, 1978

DATE PUBLISHED: Tuesday, Oct. 5, 1978, in The Kansas City Times

Editor’s note: After a year of planning and debates over whether the virtue of the project, avant-garde artist Christo came to Loose Park to drape its walkways with golden nylon. A team of workers took three days to install the 135,000 square feet of fabric, and for almost two weeks, Kansas Citians could walk or jog on almost three miles of modern art.

From Kansas City, Christo was bound for Berlin, where he proposed plans to wrap the Reichstag — a project not completed until 1991.

For the 70-member Christo corps, it was the playoffs, the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Grand Prix all rolled into one — and they were the winners.

The artist’s audacious project of covering the walkways at Loose Park was finished, except for a few details that should be wrapped up this morning and the continuing maintenance, which will be performed by a dozen or so of the crew who were kept on the payroll.

For most of the students, construction workers and art enthusiasts who had worked three long days, beginning about dawn Monday, it was payday and time to celebrate. They got their checks, many had Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, autograph their official “Wrapped Walk Ways” T-shirts, and sat down to fried chicken and corn-on-the-cob at the park picnic tables.

The public seemed to accept the gold nylon — which will remain on the walk for two weeks — as a good idea. One man, asked what he thought of it, gave an answer that was typical:

“It’s not bad,” he said, looking up the walk he had just come down. “In fact, it’s kind of nice. … It’s beautiful.”

It was beautiful. The fabric, which had shimmered like molten gold in the sunlight, took on a softer glow under a cloudy sky. It seemed able to store up whatever light fell on it and emit a certain radiance.

“The color is more visible in the clouds because the contrast is less,” Christo said after walking about and looking at his work. “The yellow color is very, very weak.” He pointed out the look of a path going up a hill in the distance, luminous under the gray sky. He pointed out the contrast of the walks with leaves and stones. He pointed out the transformed appearance of the picnic shelter with its concrete floor covered with loose, flowing fabric. …

Wolfgang Volz, the Christo organization’s photographer, returned from a photo reconnaissance mission over the park in a helicopter.

“The sun wasn’t as strong” as it had been Tuesday, he reported. “It looked entirely different. Each time the sun hits the fabric, it changes. Today you could really see very good. Somehow the fact that the shadows weren’t as harsh did it good. There were no gaps where the shadows of the trees flowed over the walks.” …

The Contemporary Art Society, which invited Christo here but is not paying for the work, was represented by, among others, Mrs. Susan Evans, co-chairman of the society’s selection committee. …

The society as a whole approached Christo about doing a project here after Mrs. Evans and society members John Hoffman and Myron Cohen came up with the idea.

“We did not immediately approach him,” Mrs. Evans said. “The selection committee is quite large. … In our committee meetings his name kept emerging and re-emerging, and in my mind it was logical that he should come here and hopefully find something he wanted to do.”

After completing their task Wednesday, most of the workers sat elbow to elbow at long tables, looking more like a family reunion than an army.

“Please eat,” Christo said paternally. “We have plenty of food for all.”

Mrs. Margaret McGee, 5405 Wornall, who lives across the street from the park, said when she first heard of the project, she thought it was a waste of money. Now she likes it.

“It’s really beautiful as I look across the street at it,” she said. “It’s sort of a fantasy. It’s ridiculous, but it’s pretty.”

“Nobody ever rolled out a red carpet for me,” said a woman who had driven to the park to look at the project. “But now Christo has given me ‘Wrapped Walk Ways.’ ”

Mrs. Evans said she had returned to the park Tuesday night and saw a group of blind people walking on the path near the duck pond, feeling the nylon wrapping and exclaiming over it.

“It gave me goose pimples,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

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