Judge Punishes Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum Climbers

Cooper Means and Lauren Twohig pose for a photo on the Aspen Art Museum before being arrested. Photo: courtesy Cooper Means.

Aspen Art Museum visitors beware: resist the urge to climb the 47-foot-tall basket-like facade of the newly opened Colorado building (see “Cai Guo-Qiang Fireworks for New Aspen Art Museum Opening“), or you’re in for at least a $150 fine and 10 hours of community service. As reported by the Aspen Times, three people caught scaling the walls of the institution have received just such a sentence, with an added warning that should they be arrested again in the next year, they will face more serious consequences.

The three climbers were William Johnson, 29; Cooper Means, 22; and Lauren Twohig, 20. Johnson attempted a solo ascent under cover of night (and the influence of an estimated three to four beers), and is among the more successful of those caught making the climb. Means and Twohig, who were only posing for a photograph, were stopped only about a foot off the ground (see “Colorado Climbers Collared After Ascent of Aspen Art Museum“).

“We didn’t climb it,” Means told the Times. “The point was to take a photograph. We only got 15 inches off the ground before we were immediately confronted by a museum security guard who thought we were going to climb it.” The pair walked away, but were followed by the guard and an Aspen police officer to a nearby grocery store, where they were arrested.

The urban daredevil is actually having quite a moment. German artists made headlines for placing white flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge (see “German Artists Fess Up to Brooklyn Bridge Flag Stunt“), Russian climber Kirill Oreshkin‘s terrifying photographs of himself hanging precariously off the edge of towering buildings have become a viral sensation, a teen was just arrested for Instagram snapshots showing him on the precipice of a new New York skyscraper (see “NYPD Arrests Teen Who Scaled Tallest Residential Skyscraper for Instagram“), and New York magazine just published a guide for those interested in getting less illegal thrills exploring New York’s generally off-limit locales.

Of course, the Aspen Art Museum is far more inviting than most edifices when it comes to climbing. The museum exterior is built from Prodema, a composite made of wood and paper pulp, bound by resin, and coated in a wood veneer. The long woven strips that encase the building are placed at regular intervals, creating a ladder-like structure that almost calls out to be scaled.

“It’s sturdy. It’s definitely climbable,” Means said.

If anyone does elude capture and make it to the top, they’ll be rewarded with $500 from Lee Mulcahy, a local artist banned from the museum who has a problem with the new building, which has garnered criticism for being out of scale with the rest of Aspen.

Bounty or no bounty, warned museum communications director Jeff Murcko in an interview with the Times, the institution maintains a “zero-tolerance policy for climbing the wall.”

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