Around The Hoop

Aspen and its denizens a work of art

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenDecember 2, 2011
There is controversy at every turn in Aspen. Paper bags or plastic, Aspen Mountain or Snowmass, Gucci or Prada. Debate doesn't just await around the corner, oftentimes it is literally on the corner.

The landlords for Little Annie's Eating House, led by longtime local businessman Andy Hecht, had designs to raze the building long known for its burgers and comfort food but they recently had a change of heart and are now seeking a historic designation. They are also asking to build a 7,000-square-foot penthouse without meeting the city's affordable housing requirements, which is also raising eyebrows.

But the fact that the eatery, as well as the nearby dwelling of the late Aspen artist Tom Benton, could be saved from demolition is a giant step forward for a city that hasn't always handled history smoothly.

There was the time officials allowed the wrecking ball to crash through the Brown-Paepcke house, built in 1888 and the home of some of Aspen's most influential families. Residents stood on the street in the West End neighborhood, crying and yelling as the house was reduced to rubble before their very eyes.
View of Aspen Mountain from Roof Deck Sculpture Garden
© Shigeru Ban Architects

Earlier this year, after discussions broke down with city officials, the University of Colorado School of Medicine bulldozed the Given Institute — a 1972 concrete building designed by the late Chicago architect Harry Weese — so it could sell the 2.25-acre property to a next-door neighbor for millions.

And botched negotiations between City Hall and developer Nikos Hecht in 2008 over his plans for the now-defunct Wienerstube restaurant ended in the sale of the property to the Aspen Art Museum. City Council went on to give a green light to plans for an ambitious new Aspen Art Museum downtown.

The new museum commissioned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban to design the new digs, which will replace the 9,000 square feet at the existing museum, which is down near the Rio Grande River.

The downtown design calls for 30,000 square feet of a mostly glass and wood environmentally sustainable structure that is meant to be piece of art in itself and tries to highlight Aspen in all of its splendor.

It of course is highly controversial.

Last month its detractors scrawled the word “Ugly” on the building site and hung a “For Sale” sign. Letter writers refer to it as a “black eye” that elites rammed down the community's collective throat.

But not everyone is against it. While there is strong opposition, there is also plenty of local support. Museum officials say they are nearing in on their capital campaign goal of raising $50 million.

The new museum design calls for 12,500 square feet of exhibition space, an exterior roof deck sculpture garden, an education classroom, bookstore, museum shop, café, office space and art storage. Skylights will flood the main gallery with natural light, a glass elevator will ferry art aficionados from floor to floor, and a woven wooden screen will adorn part of the exterior. It promises to be a sight to behold.

Assuming the museum actually gets built on the corner of East Hyman Avenue and South Spring Street, it should enhance Aspen's reputation as an art town, and one with the critics to go along with it.

comments: 3 Comments on "Aspen and its denizens a work of art"

WOLF – Dec. 02, 2011, at 6:14 p.m.

Occupy the Aspen Art Museum?

Directed to the Aspen Art Museum 0.1% Board.

“It’s not wise to speak truth to power when peon. Tea Party + Occupy Wall Street=People United.”-paraphrase, ancient Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei [Two Thumb's up: See Heidi's blog.]
Dear Heidi,

Are you :(?

Do you not :) your photo in the sculpture ?

How’s the weather down in Miami for Art Basel?

All 7 of us in Occupy Aspen neither hung the “For Sale” on the tractor-trailer in the vacant lot nor know who did all the shenanigans you complained to the Daily News about. We had 50 at Occupy Little Annie’s if you count all of Jack Johnson’s friends as occupiers. Some could barely walk.

My friend Ray’s letter [google “Meet the Art Police”], my recent sculpture, and the community ALL tried to tell you that you're taking yourself a tad too serious; but then you go and install how many surveillance cameras and motion detectors on the vacant lot? [LOL: Additional lighting on sensors at dusk. ]

All this to watch… two tractor trailers? BTW, were they spray-painted in Denver with vinyl and driven up here? Thanks.

Our favorite new sign of yours is: “This area is under 24-hour video surveillance. No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.” See photos @ “Weren’t there ads and stories in the paper just a few months ago that invited people to come by and play ping pong?”-online comment.

On Monday, your goons called the police on us again; but the cops told the Art Police: Sorry, freedom of expression.

But then you find some sign rule. Checkmate! Problem: the cops refused to do anything on your “criminal mischief” charge, despite your impressive surveillance film. Not to mention those amazing digital photos taken by the art police staffers of the “Citation from the Citizens of Aspen” and “occupy” taped to the PVC pipe holding one of the at least five visible cameras.

Limousine liberals love to roast Rick Perry, but did he not introduce a bill in the Texas legislature to deem big government actions like groping a 6 year old as a violation of our liberty? Shame on Texas for not passing it.

As I said in my email to you the other day [google “Criminal or Hilarious?”], and as I have told your buddy, fellow CEO Mike Kaplan, it’s ok to laugh at yourself. We all do.

As an 8th generation Texan [white trash and proud] with a PhD in 19th century French art, you are wrong to stifle freedom of expression, especially criticism.

Why go all Skico on us and ban the “criminal”/Skico whistleblower from museum property? (Hint: Paula Crown, poster hottie for the 1% tried that it didn’t work out so well…)

Am I the first Aspen Art Museum “Contemporary Leader” booted for practicing situationist art theory at my local arts organization? Do I get a refund? You’re awesome. Thanks for all the chuckles you give us.

Occupy art basel: Meet the art police.

WOLF – Dec. 02, 2011, at 6:33 p.m.


re: Concerning the destroyed house and Given Institute mentioned in the article

Several of our neighbors have truly labored to reshape our community, our country, and our world. Unfortunately, their tireless efforts on our behalf don’t allow for interaction with us common folk whose lives they so impact.

What better way to show how much we honor and value their efforts and presence in our midst than to insure that they are not overlooked in this year’s Halloween festivities? They have operated in the shadows and remained our unsung heroes too long! On Saturday, October 29, 2011, let’s meet at the Park at the Red Brick Center for the Arts, 110 E Hallam, Aspen, at 5:00 p.m. and proceed as follows:

First, around the corner and past the site of the late, lamented Givens Institute to our first stop at 414 N. First Street, the lovely home of Jonathan Lewis. This address may seem vaguely familiar to some locals, being the site of the former home of Walter and [expletive] Paepcke. Back in 1998, Mr. Lewis was so anxious to make his mark on Aspen that he used a portion of his hard-earned inheritance from the Progressive Insurance family fortune to surreptitiously raze the Brown-Paepcke house in the midst of negotiations whereby the City of Aspen agreed to move the structure deemed “Aspen’s White House”. Despite residing primarily in Miami, Mr. Lewis continues to contribute to Aspen’s rich cultural heritage by allowing the annual “Wine Crush” event on the site of the former Given’s Institute which Mr. Lewis purchased and demolished in 2011. One hopes the “treats” provided are not crushed Ginger Snaps.

Then we proceed to “Billionaire’s Byway” also known as Roaring Fork Road and our next stop at numbers 855 and 865, the homes of David and Charles Koch. The Koch brothers inherited their father’s oil business and now own and control the multi-national conglomerate Koch Industries. In addition to selling millions of dollars of petro-chemical equipment to Iran, since 2006 Koch Industries has spent in excess of $50,000,000.00 lobbying against derivatives regulations and greenhouse gas limits. The brother’s Koch, whose combined wealth is in excess of $50,000,000,000.00, making them the richest Americans, have individually given millions of dollars to further grass roots activism through support of the Federalist Society, the Cato Institute and the Tea Party. Full size Snickers or Reese’s Cups would be in order here.

Next we merely cross the road to the home of Leonard Lauder, son and heir to Make-Up maven Estee’s empire. In addition to being the majority shareholder in his parents company, Mr. Lauder is a noted philanthropist and civic leader, serving, inter alia, on the Council on Foreign Relations and, on a more local level, the Board of The Aspen Institue. Many of you might be familiar with the Institute’s annual Ideas Festival either through being selected to serve, but not interact with the attendees, as a volunteer, or paying $5,000.00 for full access. For the rest of us, the Festival is a forum for the glitterati to speak on global issues. Attendees pay $5,000.00 for the privilege of listening. We are all able to sleep more soundly, worry free, knowing that the myriad of issues facing us daily are being “discussed” by “experts” at the Festival due to the minutes of altruistic efforts of Mr. Lauder and other members. If we are lucky, we may be able to view Mr. Lauder’s collection of Picasso’s and Klimt’s, or at least his vast array of vintage ski posters. However, we’ll be more than happy with just the choice of our favorite warm-tone or cool-tone gift goodie. We then proceed next door the home of Mr. Lauders son, Gary Lauder, whose rough ride to fortune was also atop Estee’s coattails. Gary is a co-founder of the Socrates Program at the Aspen Institute, whereby emerging leaders may convene, for a price, to discuss various topics in an “expert” moderated forum. He is a Venture Capitalist, whose free time is spent with his wife struggling daily to refine their philanthropic focus as issues change. Payday candy bars anyone? Our next stop takes us up-valley a ways to 161 Stillwater Lane, the palatial home of Lynda and Stuart Resnick. When not filing lawsuits to block construction of affordable housing, or defending lawsuits brought by environmental groups, state water agencies and the Federal Trade Commission, Lynda and Stuart are the “hosts with the most” at their annual fete, held at their Little Lake Lodge, for all of the “expert” speakers at the Ideas Festival. Lynda is on record as stating that she and Stuart “are consumed with doing good” as evidenced by their withdrawal of a $4,000,000.00 pledge to the Aspen Institute when, amid public outcry, the Paepcke Auditorium was not renamed in their honor. Given the Resnicks control of both the Pistachio and Pomegranate markets our “treats” could range from something POM wonderful (a cure for erectile dysfunction) to simply “nuts” to us.

Last but certainly not least, we move down valley to Tiehack Way, where some of us paid up to $10,000.00 to watch Michelle Obama walk barefoot in the grass. Yes, it’s the home of James and Paula Crown, the valley’s undisputed King and Queen. James is the grandson of the late Walter Crown, the largest shareholder in General Dynamics, the fifth largest defense contractor in the world. As the owners of the largest employer in the valley, Aspen Skiing Company, and thus controlling roughly 25% of the town of Aspen, the Crown’s generosity, equanimity, and egalitarianism in all their business dealings are well known throughout the valley. The Crown’s have also acted decisively to prevent our minds being troubled by hearing a song or reading any news or opinion that they feel may tarnish the gilded image of life in the Valley they have worked so tirelessly to create for all of us.

If sufficient fealty is exhibited perhaps some lift tickets may be thrown our way…

These people are our neighbors. Their resumes all proudly proclaim their connection to Aspen. Some unselfishly use their valuable time to bring “experts” to the valley to discuss issues we confront every day; we have not yet heard of any solutions “discussed” but we can continue to HOPE this will CHANGE. Others continue to expand their property holdings in the valley, thus sparing more of us from hearing of any snakes in our personal edens. Still others spare us from watching iconic structures decay and crumble due to non-use.

This handful of people are known to all of us by name. We know where they live but don’t know their faces, nor do they know ours. Lets change all that so that next time we bump carts is City Market we’ll feel free to invite them over for “Beer and Brats”.

This was concerning the Paepcke house mentioned in the article:

WOLF – Dec. 02, 2011, at 6:46 p.m.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Roaring Fork Open at the Aspen Art Museum. I recently drove over from Vail to assist a friend of mine, a local artist, who is constructing his home. After an exhausting day of manual labor, I found myself helping to unload two pieces of what was termed “guerrilla art” in the park surrounding the art museum. We unloaded the first piece in the grassy park, leaning it against an aspen tree, and went to retrieve the second. In the few minutes it took to return, two nametag-wearing Aspen Art Museum officials had absconded with the first piece.

After placing the second piece against a different tree without event, we were able to locate the first one behind the art museum and returned with it to the park where we were immediately accosted by the same two officials. Given their officiously overbearing attitude and demeanor, I can only assume that they were respectively the museum director and curator.

The taller of the two I'll refer to as Cartman, (“You must respect my authoritay!”) insisted that we remove the art from the park. At that point, wanting nothing more than to go inside and grab a beer with my friend, a member, I suggested we just leave the piece leaning against a tree on the far side of the park. To which the shorter of the two responded, “Then we'll just remove it from there.”

Desiring no further drama, we started back to the truck; however, due to the nature of the art, we were stopped numerous times by Roaring Fork Open attendees who engaged us, took pictures, and otherwise, slowed our progress. Before we could make it off the grass and into the parking lot, Cartman reappeared and announced that “no hard feelings — I've called the police” explaining that we were “co-opting my event.”

Within seconds, the police arrived; we continued on our way past them and loaded the paintings on the truck. We sat stunned, realizing that freedom of expression no longer has meaning — in of all places an art event — in Aspen, Colorado.

Ray Cheney


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