The Great Tonasket Cover-Up

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It all began when a Washington State businessman asked the renowned "wrap artist" Christo Javacheff for a small donation for the local schools.

But the Tonasket public schools not only eventually got the donation, they now may well also have 178,000 pounds of yellow-and-blue cloth left over from the latest project by Christo, as the artist is known.

Phil Baker, a former teacher who bid to supply wood for Christo's recent project to erect giant umbrellas in Japan and California, included in his bid a $200 donation for the Tonasket High School art department.

"We're a poor school district," Mr. Baker says, noting the art budget amounts to only $4 to $5 per student each year.

Mr. Baker's company not only won the contract to cut 90,000 pieces of wood for the umbrellas, but got more than $500, $100 of which will go to a local private school. Although he knew all along the colors chosen for the umbrellas, Mr. Baker said "it never dawned on me until I actually saw the cloth [in California] that they were the school colors."

With the help of the project's general manager, Augie Huber, the cloth was donated to the schools. Christo is known for donating materials from his giant projects.

Mr. Baker and others are now working on how to get the three truckloads of cloth to the schools without violating import-export laws. One solution is to have the cloth exported to Canada as remnants and then reimported.

And what will the district do with the cloth of 1,700 umbrellas and the remnants of another 3,300?

Well, Mr. Baker says, the schools could use some new drapes and the city could use a new cover for its swimming pool. He is also hoping to find other districts with the same school colors that are willing to share in the $3,600 trucking costs in return for some of the fabric. --W.M.

Vol. 11, Issue 03, Page 1

Published in Print: September 18, 1991, as The Great Tonasket Cover-Up
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