Aspen Art Museum letters are a work of art, city says |

Aspen Art Museum letters are a work of art, city says

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
The display outside the Aspen Art Museum, which reads "With Liberty And Justice For All," does not violate signage or lighting code, according to city officials.
Christina Capasso/The Aspen Times |

After fielding concerns and complaints from the public, Aspen officials have determined that the luminescent letters that wrap around a corner of the Aspen Art Museum qualify as a work of art and are not in violation of the city’s sign code.

The city also explored whether artist Jim Hodges’ art installation “With Liberty and Justice For All,” on display through Jan. 4, violates any lighting code. Because the luminescent material doesn’t require power or lighting, there is no issue there, either, officials said.

Community Development Director Chris Bendon said the situation would be different if the display were an advertisement for a product or service or if the display were for sale itself. But that’s not the case.

“It’s not a sign. It’s not advertising a product or service. It’s not itself for sale. It complies with our lighting codes,” Bendon said.

This isn’t the first time Hodges’ work has appeared in Aspen. In 2009 — the same year he designed the Aspen Skiing Co.’s lift ticket featuring the phrase “Give More Than You Take” — the New York artist’s solo exhibition “You Will See These Things” appeared at the museum.

In a statement, the museum opines that Hodges’ current installation “allows the viewer to ponder their personal relationship to a familiar yet powerfully charged philosophical notion. ‘With Liberty’ is a poignant meditation on the current state of society; a gesture that reminds us of our relationship to power, politics and change.”

When the topic came up Monday at the Aspen City Council’s regular meeting, Mayor Steve Skadron said he had received “a flood of emails” about it. In an interview Wednesday, Councilwoman Ann Mullins said it’s a temporary piece of art, and as long as it’s not offensive, she doesn’t see a problem with it. One aspect of art is that it’s supposed to be thought-provoking, she added.

“As long as it’s a temporary work of art, we can look at it, we can like it, we can hate it, but it’s gone in a couple of months,” she said. “It’s actually initiated some thought about your environment.”