Local artist to share Central Park 'Gates' experience with public

Rockford Art Museum will host a slide-lecture by Valerie Olafson in the Riverfront Museum Park Theater on Wednesday, April 13, at 6 p.m. as part of a presentation of selected images that will be on display April 4-15. Both events are free and open to the public.

Olafson, a Rockford native and professional photographer, was one of 800 people selected to help avant-garde artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude set up their massive “Gates Project” in New York’s Central Park earlier this year. “There were so many interesting people working on the project,” she said. “Everyone really wanted to be a part of this.”

The construction of the project was a weeklong affair, with a day of training and a day of unfurling the saffron-hued cloth book-ending the process. The temporary artwork remained standing for just 16 days, beginning Feb. 12. “It really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Olafson. “It was an exciting time.”

Olafson learned firsthand about the project when she attended the artists’ lecture at Rockford College in October 2003. The couple was in town to share sketches of the vision for Central Park as part of a nationally touring exhibit that was on display at Rockford Art Museum for three months, beginning in August 2003.

Ironically, Olafson didn’t meet the couple when they spoke in Rockford—but in New York, she did. “Christo and Jeanne-Claude were on site every day, having coffee in the morning with us, and lunch, too,” she said.

Rockford Art Museum and the Riverfront Museum Park are at 711 N. Main St. in downtown Rockford. For more information, contact the museum at (815) 972-2871.

From the April 6-12, 2005, issue

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