MONA releases digital guide and exclusive in person tours

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MONA releases digital guide and exclusive in person tours
Maya Abee, Jim Schneeweis, Kevin Kuzma in front of house of spirits courtesy MONA.

GLENDALE, CA.- The Museum of Neon Art announced the launch of Community Beacons, a digital guide that highlights signage in LA County that has been preserved in place. This project is grant funded through The National Trust for Historic Preservation and will be available on the Bloomberg Connects app. MONA will host several in-person events to celebrate this launch, including exclusive access to historic locations, historical talks, and meet and greets with business owners and neon preservationists.

MONA’s Community Beacons digital guide features historic photographs, video, and audio to highlight the historical signage that The Museum of Neon Art has helped to preserve or advocate for across LA County. The launch of this guide features 5 sites. “It is exciting to use technology to create a guide that expands access to parts of our collective community legacy. When the signs we are featuring were installed they were the height of technology, and one of the most efficient ways to communicate. Now thanks to the work of a community of volunteers, advocates, and preservationists we can find a new way to celebrate these glittering beacons to Los Angeles” states MONA Executive Director Corrie Siegel. “Signs in situ teach us about the history of communities and represent the endurance of cultural history through changing communities. Having signs work, let alone stand, is no small feat. Through these 5 signs we celebrate collaboration, we celebrate the craft, we celebrate light, and life.” States MONA Researcher and Educator Maya Abee, who managed the Community Beacons project.

The signs featured in the guide are Echo Park’s 1920’s era Jensen's Recreation Center sign, one of the only remaining lightbulb and opal glass signs in the united states, which features an animated bowler hitting a strike; The Broadway Hollywood Department store, which is now the home to luxury apartments; Gift Fair Chinaware, a 1940’s era sign that was given back by MONA to Chinatown to grace the YC Hong building; the iconic Los Feliz Sarno's Bakery sign, as well as Pasadena’s Adohr Milk Farm sign from the 1920’s, which was revealed during a remodeling project for Howlin Ray’s restaurant. “This guide doesn't even begin to encompass all of LA, however these 5 signs gave us a closer look to some of the rapidly changing parts of our city, and feature some of MONA's accomplishments of citywide preservation in one fell swoop.” states Maya Abee.

The guide features interviews with Johnny Ray Zone, owner and chef at Howlin’ Ray’s; Matt Egan owner of Mirate in Los Feliz, Celeste Hong, preservationist, educator, and granddaughter of New Chinatown Co-Founder YC Hong, Jim Schneeweis and Kevin Kuzma from The Echo Park Historical Society; Al Nodal, Founder of the LUMENS neon relighting project, Department of Cultural Affairs; Neon preservationist Paul Greenstien; Historian and Geographer Dydia DeLyser, and others.

MONA has preserved signage from Southern California since 1981, Its collection is on view at its Glendale Museum and Universal City Walk. In addition to preserving signage in its collection, the museum has been actively involved in protecting, advocating for and relighting signs in the Los Angeles County landscape. MONA has worked in collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs, preservationists, business owners, and civic officials to keep historic signage in place. MONA has helped to keep over 500 signs in the LA Landscape illuminated since the 1990's. “LA is a confusing city for many; too often, a place people don't try to get to know before accusing it of deception and superficiality. The goal of this project is to widen whoever accesses the guide's field of vision to include the nooks, crannies, and rooftops where neon hangs and to consider them when considering the meanings of Los Angeles. There are quite literally signs showing us lost or overlooked histories.” states Maya Abee.

By engaging historians, preservationists, volunteers, and community members, the guide highlights the community importance of these historic landmarks, as well as the way business, politics and community can join together to preserve historic resources. With this guide MONA hopes that it will bring neon and preservation concerns into the cultural and communal consciousness, provide accessibility to historic treasures beyond the museum’s walls, as well as provide clear documentation of the power of preservation. “Neon is a form of art and historical asset that owes much of its preservation to the work of community advocates, artists, and business owners who chose to value these objects. This guide celebrates the power we all have to care-take for our communities and find value in the landscape.” states MONA Executive Director Corrie Siegel

Educator and researcher Maya Abee managed the Community Beacon’s project and MONA Executive Director Corrie Siegel envisioned the project. Volunteers Joanne Wang, Eric Lynxwiler, Dydia DeLyser, Paul Greenstien, Christine Ferriter,Salpy Talian, and Maggie Buckles researched and brainstormed the approach to sharing these community based histories.

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