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  • Guided by Light: The Museum of Neon Art (MONA) makes the fall months brighter with a series of walking tours

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    MONA hosts safe, socially-distant Neon Night Walks of Los Angeles’s historic districts

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    Los Angeles, CA As the weather cools, MONA’s knowledgeable tour guides will weave light filled tours through Los Angeles county neighborhoods. Limited to 15 participants, this new initiative “Neon Night Walks” is a way to see Los Angeles in a different light. Masked, socially distanced participants will learn about the history of neon and local neighborhoods in a safe outdoor tour. Special online tour experiences will also be offered for those interested in exploring the city at home. MONA will lead hour and a half long walking tours in Glendale, Koreatown, Hollywood, Downtown LA’s famous Broadway Theatre District, Chinatown, and more. Guests will be able to explore the area’s architectural history, guided by the soothing glow of its neon signs. 

    The Neon Night Walks are inspired by MONA’s Neon Cruises, an iconic program that MONA has been offering for the last 35 years which takes place on an open top double decker bus. Due to Covid19 health concerns the 2020 season of Neon Cruises were canceled, giving MONA the opportunity to experiment with a shorter guided walks series. The walking tours will provide guests a unique opportunity to see our built environment through a more intimate neighborhood and community lens. Similar to MONA’s themed cruises, the walking tours will feature specially themed walks, including a spooky Halloween tour, a festive Holiday neon wonderland walk, and more.

    “Our Neon Cruises are the closest many guests will get to LA’s outstanding historic neon signs, since they are seated only on the top of a double decker bus. However, there is just as much beautiful neon to see and history to learn on the ground level! We’ll be able to see historic and new signs, beautiful storefronts, and gain a new appreciation for all the little elements that contribute to the city,” says MONA’s Curator of Education and Engagement, Ani Mnatsakanyan.

    “MONA’s Neon Night Walks decode the fascinating stories of Los Angeles neighborhoods through their neon signs and provide Angeleno’s the ability to be tourists in their own city. Once you start reading neighborhoods through light, the signs become secret subtitles that convey layers of stories written across the landscape,“ says MONA’s Executive Director Corrie Siegel.

    Ambassador of Light: Koreatown/ Wilshire Center

    Guided by Eric Lyxwiller and Corrie Siegel

    Walking Tour- Friday, October 23, 6:00-7:30pm

    Walking Tour- Saturday, October 24, 6:00-7:30pm

    Join Urban Anthropologist and Neon Historian Eric Lynxwiler, MONA Board President, and author of “Spectacular Illumination: Neon 1925-1965”, “Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles” and “Signs of Life: Los Angeles is The City of Neon” and Executive Director of MONA, Corrie Siegel, for a illuminating journey through the history of Wilshire Center/ Koreatown, as centered through the buildings and signs that surround the former Ambassador Hotel. The hour and a half tour will share about old Hollywood, political turmoil, and immigrant success. It  will be a socially distanced walk available for a maximum of 15 guests. Masks are mandatory, walking shoes are encouraged. The walk will cross over several blocks and almost 2 miles of neon wonderment. An adapted zoom presentation will be available to those who would prefer learning from home.  

    Haunted East Hollywood

    Guided by Ani Mnatsakanyan and Corrie Siegel

    Walking Tour- Thursday, October 29th, 6:00-7:30

    Zoom Online Tour- Friday, October 30th 6:30-7:30

    MONA Curator of Education and Engagement Ani Mnatsakanyan and Executive Director Corrie Siegel will shine a light on the haunted, spooky stories of this area as well as it’s masterful neon signage in this roughly 2 mile walk. An adapted Zoom tour will also be offered on October 30th to ensure accessibility and serve a larger crowd online.

    Chinatown Lights

    Guided by Eric Evavold

    Walking Tour- Saturday, November 14 6:00-7:30

    Eric Evavold is a Los Angeles native and historian who has been leading tours for over 30 years, including themed tours. He is also a Bullocks Wilshire Ambassador and curator of their 90th Anniversary Exhibit and was recently honored for engagement with the Los Angeles American Institute of Architects for touring Bullocks Wilshire.

    Tickets for in person tours will be $20 for museum members and $25 for general audiences

    Tickets for the zoom tours will be $5 for Museum members and $10 for non members

    In person tours will be limited to 15 people, and tickets are available on a first come, first served basis. To ensure the safety of all, guests will be asked to wear masks and maintain distance from people outside of their household/pod during the tour. Visit the MONA webstore to purchase your tickets today! For those that are unable to attend the in-person walking tour, MONA will offer online tours via Zoom. Private tours may also be available upon request.

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  • Bending Notes from the Diary of Linda Sue Price

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    Linda Sue Price in the cross fires

    2016…
    I have been bending for about eleven years studying with Michael Flechtner. I decided to write about the process so that I wouldn’t forget all the lessons along the way. 

    The basics… there are three fires that one works in—a ribbon burner, a cross fire and a hand torch. To bend, you start with a 4 foot straight piece of glass that can be trimmed for a specific pattern. You then put a cork in one end and the rubber end of the blow hose into the other end. The blow hose is used to blow air into the tube while it is heating so that the tube doesn’t collapse. Then you move the tube into the fire for heating. The goal is to heat the right amount of glass for the bend you are making, get it hot enough and heat it evenly by rotating the glass or the hand torch. 

    Plan B 7, Linda Sue Price

    When I first started to learn how to bend my intention was to bend free form. However, in order to get in touch with the glass I had to practice bending to pattern. Pattern bending comes from the head whereas freeform comes from the gut.

    When bending freeform I feel very connected to the glass. It’s like having a conversation with the glass. Some times the communication flows and other times not.

    Pattern bending is another issue. But finally after years of practice and the desire to be able to create specific forms, I am now learning how to surrender to the pattern. There are so many things to consider when bending to pattern—how you go into the fire and come out of it so you are positioned to land easily on the pattern. 

    Pattern for bending

    Other challenges I faced was under heating and twisting the glass. The idea is to heat the right amount of glass for the bend you are making, get it hot enough and heat it evenly. 

    There are three types of fires used to heat the glass. The ribbon burner—my favorite—for making loop shapes; the cross fire for specific small movements like V’s, U’s, and L’s; and the hand torch for delicate work like attaching electrodes or making small adjustments. The hand torch has less heat so it’s ideal for small, delicate corrections. 

    In the beginning I started to under heat the glass because when the glass was at the right heat it was too easy to accidentally stretch the glass. By under heating I eliminated the stretching but then I got kinks because the glass wasn’t hot enough. 

    Once I started getting the glass hot enough, I struggled with over inflation. Part of the process of bending is having a blow hose attached so you can inflate the glass when it gets hot to keep it from collapsing. 

    Blow hose used in neon bending

    Then In my pattern practice, I struggled with making U bends without getting kinking on the inside. I discovered that I was twisting the glass coming out of the fire. It would look great when I came out of the fire but by the time I got it to the pattern on the workbench, it would kink. After some focused practice I figured out that I was twisting the glass so I spent practice time breaking that habit. 

    There is no scientific process to this. It is just hours of practice and learning to read the glass. And each time you figure out what you are doing wrong, to fix that you have to relearn the bending process.

    Then there is the mind. If you over concentrate on the bend you lose it. If you don’t focus you lose it so you have to find the balance. Listening to music while bending helps but some times I start dancing to the music and get distracted.

    Currently I’m practicing a pattern and attempting to bend to it. I’ve spent a month or so trying to get the hang of it. I’m in the studio two to three days a week and each week it gets better but bending to pattern is so different. Tonight I began to think—why am I doing this. No one will appreciate how much harder this is for me than the complex free form bends I do. But I am keeping at it. It looks like a simple pattern but it’s really challenging.

    After another month of practice and more demos by the master, I had success. The bends went the way they were supposed to and the tube was smooth—no crunches and on pattern. Amazing. 

    Curves Ahead, Linda Sue Price.

    2019 update…

    I have calculated that I have completed about 2300 of the required 10,000 hours required to become a master. In light of that, I am pretty pleased with where I am. 

    I have been doing project bending the past couple weeks as opposed to practice bending. Generally that makes me tense especially when I work with the ‘good’ aka expensive glass. But after considering that I don’t have 10,000 hours I feel like I need to channel my efforts to combat my bending anxiety. So I’m trying to use my yoga meditation skills, self-acceptance/forgiveness and monitoring the conversations in my head in an attempt to chill the distractions. 

    Feb 2019:

    I started counting the rotations I was making in the fires. Depending on the weather, in the ribbon burner, so far—it has ranged from 10 to 14. Counting helps me stay in focus and when I drift I come back knowing where I am in the rotation. It seems to be helping. 

    March 2019:

    Haven’t bent in a month. Anxious. Had the fires on for three hours but only spent an hour actually bending. I was very distracted.  In practice bending, 10 mm looked fine, 12 mm was trash. Next day… started with 12 mm. Not great but better and then moved to testing the waters on the forms I wanted to bend. First several went well. So I started relaxing which helped my focus. 

    Came back from lunch and the tube that blew up on me a month ago, the new tube blew up again on the 5th bend again. Changed strategies… simplified the idea and didn’t let the glass cool completely between bends. That worked and I ended the day feeling confident that my skills are moving forward. 

    I’ve also started using the same strategy in free form as I do in pattern bending which is to figure out how to get into the fire so that I can easily make the rotations, what position does the glass need to be when coming out of the fire and eliminating any awkwardness such as the blow hose getting in the way. Combined with counting the rotations, my bending is having a much improved flow. 

    Question, Think, Listen by Linda Sue Price

    February 2020…

    In my warm up and practice bending, I’ve been doing a sequence of 8 double back bends for years. I have finally gotten past the kinking and now moving on to inflating which means I have to get the glass hot enough. I noticed recently that when I’m in the ribbon burner I get the glass a lot hotter so I am going to work on getting the glass hotter in the cross fire. The challenge will be to not overheat it and cause the glass to seize. 

    March 1, 2020…

    When I bend free form I look at and feel the glass in a way that I know when it has released. In pattern bending I haven’t been doing that. So today and yesterday, I was still not kinking the glass but the U bends were screwy so I eventually backed off and started trying to look and feel the glass and make the necessary adjustment and get some good bends. 

    Plan B 3, Linda Sue Price

    March 26, 2020…

    It turns out that I was heating too much glass and then was not in the center of the fire. After two or three weeks of trying different heats, I recalled Michael saying… if it is not working try something different so I moved the glass closer to me in the cross fire and suddenly I was able to make the U bend with no kinks, no funky shape and get the necessary inflation. Part of this change is due to new protective glasses that I got that weren’t as dark as my previous ones which changed my perception but it was scary because it felt like my skills were deteriorating. With the darker glasses I was getting clean bends but couldn’t inflate. It is such a delicate space. Every little adjustment has consequences. 

    So I’ve moved on to the next challenge of welding using the hand torch. I haven’t worked with the hand torch much. It’s different because instead of rotating the glass you are rotating the torch. I nailed two and blew about five. The body positioning is different from the other fires. Learning continues. Michael demoed the sequence again for me. This time I videotaped it. The challenge is finding a body position that is comfortable.  

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  • History Unveiled

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    Some bright news: This month a very rare sign was uncovered in Pasadena along Route 66 and the historic Arroyo Parkway after hiding behind a facade that covered a 1920s building for nearly 40 years. The sign still retains some vintage, intact neon tubes and brings forth fond memories of Adohr Milk Farms, a Tarzana based dairy farm established by Merritt and Rhoda Rindge Adamson in 1916 (Adohr is Rhoda spelled backwards). This rare and historically significant sign retains even more meaning when it can stay on the building it has graced for nearly 100 years. The Museum of Neon Art, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave from Esotouric, Pasadena Heritage, Adriene Biondo, Chris Casady, and numerous other lovers of the light and preservers of history have advocated for the signs preservation in place. MONA extends gratitude to Evan, the contractor, and Howlin’ Rays the new tenants that have announced they plan to keep the sign intact, and illuminate the H and R. We hope this careful reuse and preservation of the signage will serve as an example for future projects.

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  • Meet Our Summer 2020 Team of Interns

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    Over the last few weeks, MONA has had the pleasure of working with our very first team of talented interns. They have worked with our team to create wonderful educational content, assist in behind the scenes projects, and had the opportunity to learn about the fast paced and exciting world of small museums. MONA has learned to adapt and face challenges as we approach them in our ever-evolving world. Due to “Safer at Home” restrictions and for the safety of all our staff, nearly all of the work that our Interns have done has been remote. However, two local interns had the opportunity to visit MONA’s neon warehouse while following proper social distancing and safety procedures.

    We’re pleased to introduce to you Ian, Kayla, and Maya!

    Meet Ian:

    “Hello! My name’s Ian, and I’m from the Washington, DC, area, where I’ve been working remotely for MONA this summer.  In addition to joint projects among the interns like creating audio descriptions to increase accessibility and researching the permitting history of signs in the collection, I’ve been helping to bolster MONA’s science education resources.  First, I read through the California state standards in science, compiled a list of any that might be relevant to MONA’s work, and suggested ways each could relate.  Then, I got to work writing scripts for two upcoming videos explaining the science behind plasma—one aimed at elementary school students and the other for high schoolers and adults.  Once I’m done filming, I’ll be editing the videos so that they can be shared on MONA’s social media accounts, in order to help MONA’s audience better understand the scientific underpinnings of neon and plasma art!  I’ve had such a blast exploring the myriad phenomena relating to plasma and coming up with creative and engaging ways to share them with the public.”

    Meet Kayla:

    “My time interning at MONA has given me a newfound appreciation for the art of neon and glass bending. I have learned so much about the science and history behind neon and have developed new research skills that will aid me in discovering the history and influences behind certain signage and artists. While at MONA I have created auditory visual descriptions of specific works in the collection to make the museum accessible to more audiences. I have also researched the background and culture of various artists and organized the data to be used for further analysis to plan for future shows as well as for community based outreach and programming. Within this research I have also learned about how to develop a budget in planning for future events and grant proposals. During my time at MONA I have gone down the investigative path of permit history and photo archives to track down the origin of historical signage and landmarks, specifically the famous Brown Derby restaurant sign. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about neon and the historic importance behind this art form and hope that my enthusiasm over the subject can show more people that it’s never too late to learn about topics you know nothing about because there is always great joy to be had in learning.”

    Meet Maya:

    “Hi Everyone! I’m Maya Abee, one of MONA’s summer interns. These months have been all about familiarizing myself with the world of neon. I’ve been able to go to the MONA warehouse and catalogue neon tubes in their collection. I have even had the privilege of writing and recording visual descriptions of signs in the collection for an enhanced visitor experience—it’s been a joy to sit with a neon sign and really get to know all it’s quirks.

    I’ve had the pleasure of learning more about the City of West Hollywood by co-writing, curating and photographing three separate West Hollywood Light Guides— containing signage from The Strip to Route 66. I’m excited for folks to experience their city through neon. 

    One thing that MONA has given me the opportunity to explore is the role that signage plays in gentrification. Diving into community-based research has widened my perspective on how signage is often positioned right in the middle of shifting communities, and is a main indicator of change.

    I’ve gotten to look closely at The House of Spirits Liquor Store sign by digging through decades of permits, tracing its history in Echo Park—a neighborhood that has undergone many stages of change in the past decade alone. This has been a really amazing history to venture into, as the sign is so important to many Angelinos, myself included.

    My summer with MONA has been such an exciting opportunity to build on my interests and a rich way of spending a post-grad pandemic.”

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  • Welcome!

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    Welcome to MONA’s Blog. We are excited to use this new platform to share with you what’s been going on at MONA, cool historical findings such as photos and newly uncovered facts about our signs, local preservation and advocacy battles, and more. If you’d like to stay updated with our blog, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter, so that you can get notified any time there are new posts from our team!
    Happy reading!

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