Street art comes to Aspen |

Street art comes to Aspen

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
A close-up of street artist Christina Angelina's mural on the east-facing wall of the old Crystal Palace building in downtown Aspen.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Street art has arrived in Aspen. Just gaze at the upper east and west sides of the former Crystal Palace building on East Hyman Avenue and see for yourself.

“Our purpose is to support the local artists and musicians in this valley and also bring in some more art from the outside that will inspire our artists and our demographic,” said Reuben Sadowsky, a principal with Gravity Productions, which is spurring the effort.

Sadowsky recently reached out to Venice, California, street artist Christina Angelina, whose spray-painted murals have made their colorful marks on the downtown buildings of Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, among other American cities. Add Aspen to her portfolio.

“She’s a big deal, but she’s also an incredibly cool and humble person,” Sadowsky said.

The street-art movement blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s, with artists painting murals in public places in metropolitan areas. The genre is akin to urban art and neo-graffiti.

But Angelina’s work in Aspen isn’t renegade, at least in the eyes of City Hall. Sadowsky had to secure permission from the city’s Historic Preservation Office, which deemed the project within regulations.

“It had to be art with no signatures, no advertising,” said historic preservation officer Amy Simon.

While the part of the Crystal Palace building is considered historic, the artwork — which depicts the face of a dark-haired woman, eyes closed, looking down — was done on plywood that hangs above the old Aspen Commission Co. and Owl Cigar advertisements on the structure’s west-facing wall. On the exterior of the second-floor east-facing wall, a similar painting was done. The upper part of the building, Simon said, is not deemed historic.

Sadowsky also had to get buy-in from the building’s owner, developer Mark Hunt.

“I just thought it was kind of neat, it’s for the arts and it’s a bit edgy,” Hunt said. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of life for the Crystal Palace, and it’s a temporary installation that adds a lot of life.”

The project encountered one minor hiccup two weeks ago. Angelina also is painting a mural on the wall facing the alley. The muralist does her work at night, but nearby neighbors called the city to complain about beeping from a construction lift she was using. The city doesn’t allow construction work after 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.

The neighbors had no problem with the art, just the noise, Sadowsky said.

Angelina left town last week to take on another project commitment, but she’ll be back to finish the alley mural, Sadowsky said. Public feedback has been positive, Sadowsky said. He said he’s only heard one person complain.

“But that’s what art does,” he said.

Sadowsky and his partners at Gravity Productions also have eyes on bigger artistic projects in collaboration with the likes of the Aspen Art Museum, Wilderness Workshop and the Aspen Music Festival and School.

But not all art — be it in the visual, musical or performance medium — belongs in the same venues, he said.

“We’re here to promote that facet of this valley that there are artists, there are musicians, and it’s not only going on in the Belly Up and at the art museum,” Sadowsky said. “They aren’t always the right places for that. We’re here to promote local art and create an artistic culture and energy here so that artistic kids in the valley don’t have to go to New York or L.A. to do this.”

Bringing in a well-known name in the street-art world, such as Angelina, gives the local movement the credence it needs, Sadowsky said. Angelina donated the artwork that’s on the building’s west-facing side, which is worth about $10,000, Sadowsky said. She also used her own supplies for the projects. Gravity Productions helped pay her travel costs, he said.

“She knows about Aspen, Hunter S. Thompson and the gonzo culture here,” he said. “She understands that this is not only a place people come from all around the world to see, but it’s a meeting of the minds.”

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