The Artists’ Colony 101 auctioned off 91 of its 98 Arts Alive banners Sunday after a tumultuous fundraising season that nearly prompted a free speech lawsuit over the city’s request that Houlihan’s image be covered.


Encinitas group president says dispute brought publicity for yearly fundraiser

by Hailey Persinger

May 23, 2012

ENCINITAS — The fundraiser that nearly prompted a free-speech lawsuit in Encinitas over the image of the late Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan has turned out to be one of the most profitable ever for one city arts guild.

The Encinitas Artists’ Colony 101 raised about $20,000 Sunday when it sold nearly all of its 98 Arts Alive banners during its 13th annual auction. This year’s event brought in about $7,000 more than did last year’s banner auction. Danny Salzhandler, president of the Artists’ Colony, said that “getting the word out” played a big role in the turnout for this year’s fundraiser.

He said the group is getting better at publicizing the yearly event during which local artists create banners that hang from light posts along a stretch of Highway 101 through downtown Encinitas and Leucadia.

But he added that some controversy over the image of Houlihan on the back of some of the banners probably helped.

Houlihan, who often clashed with a three-member majority of the council during her 11 years on the dais, died of endometrial cancer last September while in office. Several of the Arts Alive banner artists opted to pay homage to her and to causes they said she routinely stood up for, including animal rights and the arts.

Encinitas officials in early spring told Salzhandler and the group that the banners bearing Houlihan’s image went against city municipal code since they made a “political statement.”

The Artists’ Colony taped blue vinyl over the Houlihan banners, which were most of the 98, to comply with the city’s request. But after threats of free-speech lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Encinitas-based Coast Law Group, the city changed its position and allowed the vinyl to be removed in mid-April.

The Artists’ Colony took another step to honor Houlihan during Sunday’s event when it enlisted Ian Thompson, her widower, to unveil a new banner emblazoned with her image.

“One guy alone bought $5,000 worth of banners. He walked away with about a dozen,” Salzhandler said. “He said it’s cheaper than painting his walls.”

Half of the money from the fundraiser will go to the Artists’ Colony and its associated arts groups.

The rest will go to the individual creators of the banners. Some of those artists have already pledged to give their portion of the money to area nonprofits including the Rancho Coastal Humane Society, the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Dieguito and Baja Dog Rescue.