Are neon signs meaningless commercials or undervalued art? The purveyors of the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) certainly believe in the latter.
The MONA was founded in 1981 by neon sculpture artist Lili Lakich and Richard Jenkins. At the start of the 20th century, life was increasingly mechanized and more people were moving to cities. When electricity was added to urban grid, it lit up urban landscapes with a dazzling array of colors and lights, adding even more vitality to urban spaces. The neon sign movement reached its apex between 1930 to just after World War II.
Lakich, who was born in 1944, recalls early road trips with her family during the 1940s and early 1950s, where the neon signs spurred her young imagination. “[I]t was driving at night that I loved best,” she said. “It was then that the darkness would come alive with brightly colored images of cowboys twirling lassos atop rearing palominos, sinuous Indians shooting bows and arrows, or huge trucks in the sky with their wheels of light spinning.”
As an artist, Lakich has had a long career creating stunning works of neon art. Her love for the form led to the creation of the MONA. The MONA has had many different locations around Los Angeles. In February of 2016, it reopened at its newest locale in Glendale. The museum includes well known works from Brown Derby and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in addition to signs from businesses around the country and neon folk art.