Wrapped Walk Ways

The first job I had following the receipt of my PhD was to join the crew that helped Christo wrap the walkways in Kansas City’s Loose Park.

Perhaps two months before the beginning of the Wrapped Walk Ways project, the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City sponsored a showing of Running Fence, the documentary of Christo’s 25-mile 18-foot high fence across Sonoma and Marin Counties in California. I was deeply impressed both by the beauty of the fence and by the social and political process involved in getting permission to do the project (four years in the planning, one year to construct).

As a consequence, I made every effort to get on the Wrapped Walk Ways work crew. I was successful though I don’t remember exactly how it happened – phone calls, for the most part, I believe. Once we started working it took us three days to wrap the 2.8 miles of walkways plus stairs and pavilion floor.

The gold fabric covered the walkways for two weeks and was then removed. Materials (fabric, spikes, etc.) were donated to the Parks Department and other groups that might have had a use for them. Christo paid for the entire project through the sale of his drawings.

Loose Park is a beautiful park—lake, rose garden, walking paths—and very popular. For two weeks in the fall of 1978, Christo turned the park into a happening. I overheard conversations like the following: “What a waste! Who paid for this? Did we pay for this?”; “This is not art! All this goes away in two weeks. This is not art! Just enjoy it, Harold.”; “Well, Louise, it looks like we made it to those golden streets sooner than we expected!”

Details: “Sixty-seven yellow-shirted crew members directed by thirteen construction workers undertook the three-day task of installing 136,268 square feet of saffron-colored nylon fabric, covering 104,836 square feet of paths. The fabric was held in place by 34,500 seven-inch steel spikes hammered through a like number of grommets and by an additional 60,000 staples. Three portable industrial sewing machines and three professional seamstresses along with a crew of helpers stitched 52,394 feet of hems and seams using 250,000 feet of thread. …A security force was hired to ensure the integrity of the project and to assure the neighbors that all would be quiet in the environs in the evenings.”

from Christo: Wrapped Walk Ways, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1978.


Photos by D. Thomas, copyright © 1978/2021