HomeCity NewsThe Museum of Neon Art Returns the Love

The Museum of Neon Art Returns the Love

First published in the March 19 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

A love letter can come in many forms.
For the Museum of Neon Art, its message last week was a heartfelt celebration warmly addressed to its staff, patrons and local government officials, who rallied to keep the museum’s lights on during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event’s public display of affection toward the Glendale community on March 11 was in response to the outpouring support MONA received when it was on the brink of shuttering its doors in 2020. Through increased memberships and donations, many of which were accompanied by personalized letters to the museum, the 41-year-old institution survived.
“We were at very clear risk of permanent closure during the pandemic,” MONA Executive Director Corrie Siegel said. “It is thanks to our community, the city of Glendale and the perseverance of our staff that MONA not only survived, but thrived — growing our audience, expanding our programming and looking toward the future. This celebration is for those who showed us the light in dark times.”

(Photo by Natalie Miranda / Glendale News-Press) Artist Roxy Rose’s “Lady Liberty“ on display at MONA.

The occasion also commemorated the museum’s belated 40th birthday and highlighted the “40 Years of Light” exhibition, in which attendees were able to tour the galleries and hear from featured artists Michael Flechtner, Linda Sue Price, Dani Bonnet, Lauren Griffin and Roxy Rose.
Rose, who is also known as “Neo Girl,” calls MONA her friend. Like herself, many have found a friend in the museum. She recalled one student, who she believed to be gender non-conforming, who thanked her and instructors at MONA for fostering “a safe place to be.” This struck a chord with Rose, who is transgender.
“It’s difficult to think that some people just want fancy cars and a big house and family, when some people just want a safe place to be,” Rose said while speaking to those at the event. “I want to say thank you to MONA, the staff members and everyone here for making this a safe place to be.”
As spectators peered into the bended neon on display, MONA’s galleries were filled with lively buzzing, bright flashing lights and something new and unexpected at every turn.
“MONA gives you a taste of the history of this medium, which I think a lot of people take for granted,” museum supporter Jake Dill said. “You’ll see a neon sign, sometimes with its parts broken and that’s what you most remember — it doesn’t animate, it doesn’t do things, the colors aren’t very interesting and then you can come here and people are pushing the medium. Any place that houses something like this, I think, is important for people to see.”
Avid museum-goers Jen and Shane Greenwood said MONA is one of their favorites to visit. Jen Greenwood, who is a new member and takes courses at the museum, said membership is a significant way to support an institution like MONA that preserves local history and keeps neon alive for future generations to enjoy.

(Photo by Natalie Miranda / Glendale News-Press) Jen and Shane Greenwood roam MONA’s galleries to view the various art pieces made of neon.

“It’s special how the museum has rescued historic signs, because these signs used to represent a camera store and a sushi shop that aren’t in business anymore,” Jen Greenwood said. “It’s so important for L.A. history.
“Looking back can be considered old-fashioned and boring, but these signs belonged to everyday restaurants and movie theaters and were a big part of people’s culture, and I think it wasn’t until it was on the verge of being completely gone that more people thought ‘Oh my god, we have to save this,’” she added.
Art has a reputation of being viewed as serious; however, Shane Greenwood said neon has a familiarity and approachability built into the medium.
“Neon is special because it’s nostalgic yet modern — people are still making things with it,” Shane Greenwood said. “It has this funny connection that not all art does, where it feels like a part of us, because we grew up seeing it all around us.
“I think when people hear the word museum, they think it’s maybe a little boring and it’s a place where you go and stand and look at things you’re not supposed to touch, but this place lets you get your hands in there,” he added. “MONA is more than a museum, we need another word for it.”

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