The year was 1983 ~ I was in the MFA program at Ohio State in the glass department. A group of Art Students rented a van and drove to Miami Florida to work on the Christo Surrounded Island project. Somehow, we convinced an OSU Alumni to let all 10 of us to stay at her home for over a week. I'm not sure she was convinced it was a good idea after we arrived. The project included 11 islands in the Biscayne Bay that would be surrounded in pink polypropylene material. Christo had always intended for the color to be monochromatic. In the Orlando Sentinel on April 17, 1983, its subscribers read:
"In Miami, pink used to mean flamingos, sunsets and Art Deco Hotel. Now it means Christo."
As soon as we arrived onsite, we were given a specially made pink bag, that contained a special Surrounded T-shirt and hat, sunscreen, a water bottle and toilet paper. And strict instructions on protecting ourselves against the strong sun and procedures of first aid if we were bitten by any poisonous snakes. We were paid minimum wage and our checks were pink with a photo of the Islands, not sure where the pay stubs ended up, I'm sure as a financially challenged college student, I ran directly to the bank.
Groups of us were loaded onto speed boats that took us to the islands, I was assigned Island 9, our first task was to pick up all of the garbage that had collected onto the island, bags and bags of trash was removed. Leaving the islands in beautiful condition.
Another job I did was being on a crew of 120 people who would carry the 400 - 650 ft. booms of cocooned fabric sections into the bay. The booms average weight was 4,000 lbs. On a megaphone, Augie, (Christo and Jean Claude's son) would direct us step by step. The material was anchored onto the buoys that had already been sank. Once they were connected the process of unfurling the material began. We were given little rafts to float ourselves along the seems, where we would shoelace the fabric sections together. All of these steps took several weeks to accomplish.
This was truly an unforgettable experience. Christo's work is temporary, but the planning, proposing, permits take years to work out. His work survives in photos and books and wonderful memories of the lucky people who were able to share in this adventure.
Barbara Thomas Yerace