This story was updated Sept. 9.
Friday, Sept. 7 — In the Aug. 29 issue of City Pulse, local artist Geoph Aldora Espen hinted at what a reporter described as “a planned piece at the Capitol that could very well get him arrested for vandalism.”
A week later on Wednesday night, the Capitol building and a war memorial on the grounds were tagged with graffiti. The message emblazoned across the back of the memorial read: “Give art a chance,” while stick figures were sprayed on the east-facing pillars of the Capitol building.
Espen, 20, said today he had nothing to do with the graffiti at the Capitol and doesn’t know who is responsible.
He suggested some disgruntled folks who planned on attending his event might have had something to do with it, but he’s not positive.
“There was a lot of angst among people after they found it was canceled,” Espen said today. “Did it lead to (the graffiti)? Quite possibly, or maybe it’s completely unrelated.”
The police have since questioned Espen, according to his Facebook account this afternoon. "Just got out of a gripping interrogation with LPD Detective Mires and State Trooper Johnston. It was just like the movies," he wrote.
Espen said he’s gained a level of notoriety since his “Haunted Art Exhibition” event — which was scheduled for Wednesday night — was shut down by the city and police on the night of the opening. It was to take place in the Abigail building of the former School for the Blind without permission of the owner, the Lansing Housing Commission Nonprofit Development Corp. Espen said he’s taken flak from local artists.
“For whatever reason, people are scared of doing things underground or independently away from the set norm,” he said. “They have their ideas for how an art event should be run.”
The Haunted Art Exhibition was supposed to be an art exhibit combined with a haunted house, a combination of static and performance art. Espen said the vandalism at the Capitol he was referring to in the article was about a class project.
For one of his classes at Lansing Community College, the final project is to put on a community event, he said. Espen said he is still floating around the idea of “Chalking the Capitol,” an event that would allow participants to freely express their ideas and thoughts by marking up the building with colorful chalks.
He said the chalking event would be “anything but small” and he would seek permission from those who operate the Capitol grounds.
“I love the Capitol building,” he said. “It’d be a big statement about public property and freedom of expression.”
As for the spray-painted tag job that took place Wednesday night, Espen had mixed observations.
“I thought the male and female drawings on the pillars were kind of clever,” he said. “But I don’t agree with the 'Give art a chance' statement. I think it’s petty. I don’t feel art needs a chance from anyone, it speaks volumes on its own.”
As for more abandoned building art exhibits, Espen said the crackdown of his last event has not stopped his zeal. He said he’s already got another art event in the works but wouldn’t go into details on where and when the event would be. He said it would feature both art and slam poetry.
“The location is another abandoned piece of Lansing,” he said. “It’s not currently used by anybody but is a ridiculously spectacular location for an art event to occur. I don’t have permission from the owner and I have no intention of getting it.”