A local gallerist fights for the funk and soul of Aspen | Culture & Leisure

The Skye Gallery is forced out of its current space at the corner of East Cooper Avenue and South Hunter Street in downtown Aspen. The official departure date for the local art gallery is April 15.

Owner and founder Skye Weinglass is determined to find another location in Aspen for her gallery, struggling to preserve the authentic and creative spirit that her local business brings to the community – a spirit that is unashamedly straying from this city, has she declared.

“I feel like one of the last residents with a business still staying here, and I care about Aspen’s heart, funkiness and soul,” Weinglass said. “There is such an amazing local community here. That’s why I opened a space.

Born and raised in Aspen, Weinglass is a female artist passionate about sustaining the creative culture that once characterized her home community. His father Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass owned and operated the beloved Boogie’s retail and restaurant space for nearly 30 years. After Boogie sold the building in 2015 – a difficult decision for the longtime local business owner, his daughter said, as he was suffering from serious health issues at the time – Weinglass would have a legacy to continue farming a fun and accessible community space in the heart of Aspen.

The first iteration of Skye Gallery was a pop-up in 2016, where Weinglass featured some of his own works. In 2017, the artist and a group of local creatives hosted a month-long multimedia gallery and retail concept in Boogie’s building, serving as the last temporary tenant in his father’s former space before it won’t be remodeled by Thor Equities Group, the New York-based developer who originally purchased and still owns the building. The international art gallery, Eden Fine Art, currently resides in the space with a 15-year long-term lease.

Juxtaposed with the colorful pop art of Eden around the corner from Cooper, Skye Gallery is a space Weinglass brought to life in 2018, with emerging artists, especially women, at the center of its vision. Signing an initial one-year lease, the local gallery owner quickly cultivated a community hub around all the artists and exhibits she brought downtown.

“My idea is to give emerging artists who deserve a platform a visible space in downtown Aspen because downtown Aspen has such an amazing international tourist community that can actually see and engage with artists and help artists grow,” Weinglass said. “And also, I wanted to create a place where everyone could come and meet, a community space accessible to everyone.

From yoga and meditation classes to intimate concerts, dance performances, jewelry workshops and more, the all-female-run gallery has brought lively programming and public events to its corner in the heart of downtown London. ‘Aspen.

Garfield & Hecht, the real estate law firm run by Aspen attorneys Ronald Garfield and Andrew Hecht, purchased the historic La Fave Block building where Skye Gallery currently resides about 14 years ago. Weinglass said she had never been in direct contact with its owner, Andrew Hecht, and only communicated with Hecht’s agent during her four years of occupying the space. .

After her initial lease, Weinglass was on a six-month sign-on basis for the space, enduring three years of ongoing and ambivalent conversations with her landlord’s agent regarding extending her lease, she said.

“They kept saying, ‘We need to find someone else for the space and you need to finish your lease,’ and then I don’t know if they didn’t find anyone or if they something happened, but every time they let me extend my lease,” Weinglass said. “Literally, my last lease ended on September 1 and they said to me on August 30, ‘OK, you can extend your lease for another six months’ – which is a problem for an art gallery because I struggle to book artists in time.”

While Weinglass has been kept on her toes with recurring threats of being kicked out of the building, this time around her withdrawal is a reality. But the gallerist’s frustration does not necessarily come from soaring rents; rather, it is the alleged intent behind his enforced leave.

Weinglass said she’s currently paying $25,000 a month for the space — a number that nearly doubled her previous monthly price of $14,000 last December due to strong demand from the city’s commercial real estate market, a she declared.

Despite the steep increase in rent, Weinglass expressed her gratitude for the landlord’s rates over the years and said she understands COVID-19 has caused prices to spike across the city.

The influx of people moving to Aspen during the pandemic has contributed to overall rental rates — both commercial and residential — leading the majority of landlords to “raise their prices,” Weinglass notes, and the impact on local businesses will not. cannot be solely the fault of the owners.

“It’s hard to blame the owners because they’re just trying to get the best price,” Weinglass said. “And I don’t know if the city could get more involved and have some type of rent control or if the landlords could be less greedy and more open-minded, but something has to be done within the city, otherwise we will lose our local funky spirit.

Rising rental rates are bringing their own battle to local business owners. Yet even when they’re willing to pay the price, it seems “not conducive to local business survival,” Weinglass observed.

When Hecht’s agent threatened to triple her rent to $36,000 a month, Weinglass initially tried to negotiate, but she eventually planned to accept the high price in order to keep her business at 535 E alive. Cooper Ave.

When talks about tripling the rent began in the spring of 2020, the agent made quite a few comments that stuck with Weinglass, who recalls a phone conversation where he brought up his family’s finances in regards to payment options, calling the gallery a “mom and pop store”. and a “passion project,” she alleged.

The officer then left an apology on voicemail for crossing the line, Weinglass said. Hecht’s office did not return several calls seeking comment.

“My dad never paid my rent, first of all, and that was so humiliating as a businesswoman,” Weinglass said. “I’m grateful that they continued to give me space over the years, but it also became apparent that I was a filler until they found an international mark.”

International chain clothing brand John Elliott has already signed a lease for the space and will take over the location in the fall, according to Weinglass. The clothing company reportedly signed for $27,000 a month, just $2,000 more than what Weinglass is currently paying, she said, saying she received the information about that number from several brokers in the town.

“I’ve said several times that I want to keep the space and that I’ll pay to do so, and the guy who works for my landlord specifically said to me, ‘We want an international brand. We don’t want a local business,” Weinglass said.

When asked about the reasoning behind this, the agent explained that an international brand will increase the value of the building when it is finally sold.

A few construction workers came to the gallery yesterday to take measurements for John Elliott’s pending revamp, Weinglass said, and one mentioned plans to ‘cover the historic brick’ of the La Fave building. Block – which was built in 1888 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Right now, all the businesses in the outside chain are getting the right of way – like, local businesses don’t even have a chance, and I know a lot of creatives in the Valley who would do more if they could afford the rent. “, Weinglass said. “I’ve heard from so many tourists, second home owners and people who have been to Aspen their whole lives that the soul of Aspen is being crushed and all the locals are being kicked out.”

Last year could set records for the number of local businesses closing or getting kicked out of their longtime Aspen locations – from restaurants like Piños, Jimmy’s and L’Hostaria to art galleries like Harvey Preston, Fat City Gallery and now Skye (although each in different circumstances). And if they are not taken over by a chain of companies, the spaces remain empty.

This period of back-to-back stoppages was the most alarming of Weinglass’ life as an Aspenite.

She recalls other times when the loss of local venues was disastrous, mentioning the closures of Little Annie’s and the Gonzo Museum in the Benton Building – two spaces on East Hyman that were owned, redesigned and sold by Hecht and his son Nikos through their AspenCore. Venture capital company.

Weinglass discusses the more recent red onion and “Compound” dispute that closes on April 16, which includes Su Casa, Aspen Billiards, Cigar Bar and Eric’s Bar.

“It’s always happened in Aspen, you know, everyone in Aspen always said ‘it’s getting so upscale,’ but last year it’s just like… quadrupled,” he said. she declared. “And I just don’t know how this town will keep its funky heart and soul if we keep getting kicked out – all of our local hangouts are closing.

While the gallery owner sees more and more local establishments leaving, she is determined to stay. With artists and exhibits already lined up for the summer, Weinglass did an urgent search for a new space in Aspen.

“I hope the future of Aspen stays funky and moving – that’s what I try to do with my gallery: support locals, support the community and bring in amazing artists who deserve to be seen under the spotlight in Aspen,” she said. “I want to stay here and I will definitely try to keep the gallery alive.”

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