Aspen Art Museum doesn’t appreciate Mulcahy’s art
December 15, 2011
ASPEN – Already banned from skiing the local mountains, community activist Lee Mulcahy is now forbidden from setting foot on the future site of the Aspen Art Museum.
The architect of the Occupy Aspen movement agreed with police Dec. 1 not to return to the premises after museum officials complained that he had replaced Aspen Art Museum signs with his own signs. Police had contacted Mulcahy, 47, and told him that by posting the signs he had violated Aspen codes pertaining to injury to public and private property.
Police did not charge Mulcahy, who admitted that he had posted some of the signs late last month.
According to police statements, Luis Yllanes, the manager of the museum, contacted authorities initially on Nov. 15 to report that someone had taped two “For Sale” signs to trailers on the property, located at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue. Yllanes made the call simply for “documentation purposes,” the report says.
On Wednesday Mulcahy, however, denied putting up the “For Sale” signs, and said “two different incidents occurred” on the premises. One involved him, he admitted, and the other involved people he “had nothing to do with.”
Whatever the case, Yllanes called police again on Nov. 29 to report that someone had posted the signs, and video surveillance showed that it was Mulcahy, himself an artist. Yllanes also told police that he had seen Mulcahy’s vehicle parked in front of the museum site. Additionally he noted that Mulcahy “has been very verbal about his dislike for the museum,” the report says.
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The next day, Nov. 30, Yllanes again complained to police, who took the signs, which make disparaging remarks about the museum, and put them into evidence. However, police have yet to receive any surveillance video that purportedly caught Mulcahy in the act, investigating officer Terry Leitch said Wednesday. Yllanes had told police that he had video of Mulcahy committing the deeds.
Even so, Mulcahy agreed to stay off the property.
“I made it very clear to Mulcahy that he was not allowed to return to the Art Museum property or else he would be arrested for trespassing, and Mulcahy told me that he understood and would not go onto the property again,” Officer Dave Rosselot wrote.
Mulcahy, through rounds of email correspondence with The Aspen Times, contended that his ban from the property “involves what is essentially our Constitutionally protected right of Freedom of Assembly.”
And while police records show that Mulcahy admitted to Rosselot that he defaced some of the museum’s property – “Mulcahy told me that he had gone onto the property of the Art Museum and had placed some of ‘his art on the [museum’s] sign,'” the officer wrote – Mulcahy denied he put up the “For Sale” signs in a letter he recently sent the museum’s board of directors.
“All 8 of us in Occupy Aspen neither hung the ‘For Sale’ on the tractor-trailer in the vacant lot nor know who did all the hilarious shenanigans you complained to the Daily News about,” Mulcahy wrote in reference to a Nov. 17 Aspen Daily News article. The article quoted Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the museum’s director and chief curator, as saying that the property defacement was a “cowardly way of acting.”
In that same letter, Mulcahy wrote, “Why go all Skico on us and start banning people from museum property?”
Plans for the new Aspen Art Museum – the current one is next to the Roaring Fork River off North Mill Street – call for a 30,000-square-foot, three-story structure with 12,500 square feet of exhibition space and a façade of wood and glass. The new site, at the old Wienerstube restaurant location, has not been without controversy ever since the museum and the property owner announced in June 2010 that as part of a lawsuit settlement between the city and the landowner, the museum would seek to move to the heart of downtown Aspen.
Critics argued that the process circumvented the normal land-use approval process to push through a project that didn’t comply with zoning rules. Feeling that the plans were too grandiose for the site and the surrounding mixed-use neighborhood, opponents wanted the project to go through the normal application process, which includes a full review by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Likewise, Mulcahy is no stranger to local headlines. He is one of the founders of the Occupy Aspen movement and earlier this year was fired by Aspen Skiing Co. for what company officials said were ongoing performance problems.
Mulcahy has said his termination came in retaliation for talking about forming a union for instructors. He complained to the National Labor Relations Board, but his firing was upheld. Skico has banned Mulcahy, who worked for the firm as a ski instructor for 15 years, from all of the property it operates.