Mulcahy lawsuit claims he’s banned from Aspen Art Museum
ASPEN – Lee Mulcahy now has turned his aim on the Aspen Art Museum.
The artist and former skiing instructor is seeking no more than $250 from the museum and its CEO, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, according to a complaint filed Thursday in Pitkin County Court.
Mulcahy’s beef: that the Art Museum’s ban against him is unconstitutional.
But whether Mulcahy, 47, of Aspen is actually banned from the museum – and by the museum – is another question.
Police reports say that in November Aspen officers received a call from a museum official alleging that Mulcahy posted signs with disparaging remarks on trailers on the site of the museum’s future home, at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue.
Police records show that officers told Mulcahy he was not allowed on the site after he admitted posting the signs. Additionally, an officer told him that by posting the signs he had violated Aspen codes pertaining to injury to public and private 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 he understood and would not go onto the property again,” Officer Dave Rosselot wrote.
Museum spokesman Jeff Murcko has maintained that the museum never instituted a ban against Mulcahy. On Friday, Murcko said the museum had not been served with the lawsuit and would not comment on it.
The lawsuit, filed by Mulcahy himself, or pro se, says that “The ban of an artist and his work is unconstitutional in that it imposes the threat of arrest for expressive conduct such as that of Plaintiff in his work as an artist and chills and burdens the freedom of speech, assembly, expression and association guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Mulcahy’s suit comes the same week he sued Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan for libel. That lawsuit, in Pitkin County District Court, alleges that Kaplan libeled him with comments in a letter to the editor published in both Aspen newspapers after Mulcahy was fired on Jan. 31, 2011.
He said he suffered damages – including loss of reputation, shame, mortification and injury to his feelings – in an amount exceeding $15,000. He is seeking an amount of damages to be proven at trial, legal costs and punitive damages to be determined.
Meanwhile, plans for the new Aspen Art Museum – its current home 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.
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