Sculpture Artist Highlights Health and Wellness

Installation and sculpture artist Laura Phelps Rogers recently completed a piece titled Walk to Improve Your Outlook on the stairwell at Lamar Station Crossing apartments. The interactive piece contains a motion censor component so large neon words light up as the viewer (or stairwell walker) gets close to the installation itself. We speak to Laura about this piece and her work in general.

Tell us the premise behind the piece.

I was really interested in creating an environment. I went over to the space and spent some time contemplating how I could create a dynamic backdrop for residents. A good portion of my work is installation work, small and large scale, and I always try to run from a site-specific perspective.

What does site-specific mean to you?

It means that you go to a space and consider it as a whole, how are people using it, the location of it, the background of it, the history of it. When you think about the history of the space, what was the dominant industry? How did people fashion themselves here?

Even the color scheme for the piece was site-specific. The housing department already had a color scheme and they’d put a lot of work into developing the palette. When I interviewed them, it seemed to me that it was important to them. I enjoy doing primary colors anyway but I wanted to develop a piece that coordinated with the organization itself.

The words Walk to Improve Your Outlook work together but also have a bold meaning when they stand alone. How did the specific word choice come together?

The phrase ‘walk to improve your health’ was already there, and pretty common but it felt to me like it had been drilled into people already. The word outlook is similar but also embraces the journey toward upward mobility that Lamar Station Crossing provides. This is an apartment complex that allows people to lead a life that feels free.

What other themes encapsulate this work for you? 

A Model Showing the Installation and Stairwell.

Artist Model Showing the Installation and Stairwell.

I think it’s about changing people’s lives through art. Art has the power to do that. That someone would want to hang out in a stairwell, that’s a pretty big accomplishment for me.

You can see Laura’s work Walk to Improve Your Outlook at Lamar Station Crossing apartments, located at 6150 W 13th Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80214.

http://www.mwhsolutions.org/lamar-station-crossing.html

See Laura’s full biography, artist statement, and work at, http://www.lauraphelpsrogers.com, or connect with her via Facebook using her full name, Laura Phelps Rogers.

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Save The Signs

Big Bunny Motel, Barbara Gal

Big Bunny Motel, Barbara Gal

Save the Signs is a movement founded by Corky Scholl to preserve and maintain the once-prominent neon signs that were, and still are a trademark of Colfax Avenue. In his own words, Corky beautifully describes the past, present, and future of these historic and unique works of art.

Neon lighting was invented in France in the early 1900s and the first neon sign in America appeared in California in 1923. After that, neon became a popular choice for commercial signs on well-traveled streets such as Denver’s Colfax Avenue.

Many of the neon signs that still exist on Colfax are remnants from the 1950s and 60s. They represent a time when Colfax was part of Route 40, the main route for cross-country travelers between New Jersey and San Francisco. This was a route familiar to Jack Kerouac and one he wrote about in his book On The Road. He would have seen hundreds of neon signs as he cruised through Aurora, Denver, and Lakewood on Colfax Avenue.

The large number of motels that still exist on Colfax is evidence of a time when travelers preferred this type of lodging and the amenities they offered, such as color TVs and telephones, amenities still advertised on the vintage motel signs that have survived along Colfax.

The construction of Interstate 70 rerouted traffic away from Colfax and many of the businesses along the old route suffered. The following decades saw a lack of investment along the corridor. This lead to what some refer to as “preservation by neglect.” Because development bypassed Colfax in the 70s, 80s and 90s, many examples of midcentury signage have survived to this day.

However, this trend is coming to an end. People are moving back into the urban core at a rapid rate. This surge of new residents is bringing a surge of redevelopment. This redevelopment is one of the factors threatening the neon signs along Colfax.

I started Save the Signs to build an appreciation for these signs and to create awareness that they’re valued in the community. If enough people support their preservation, the signs are more likely to survive into the future. Unlike modern signage, each of these neon signs is a one-of-a-kind work of art crafted from quality materials.

White Swan Motel, Barbara Gal

White Swan Motel, Barbara Gal

Ultimately, the fate of these signs rests with each individual property owner. They own the signs and can do with them as they please. Fortunately, signs are easier to preserve than historic buildings. Unlike buildings, signs can be purchased and moved if the need arises. Still, the preservation and restoration of these signs is not cheap. There are fewer neon craftsmen now than there were even a decade ago. Although neon isn’t currently in danger of dying out completely, it has definitely become more of a niche business.

There are many great signs on West Colfax. In Lakewood, Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner is a classic that’s known throughout the country. The Big Bunny Motel has a great story and the crazed bunny holding a can of beer has captured the imaginations of countless passersby. The Trails End Motel and the Lakewood Lodge are also classic examples of midcentury motel signage. In Denver, the Aristocrat Motel and the Eddie Bohn’s Pig’n Whistle Motel signs stand side by side on West Colfax as reminders of a prosperous past.

It’s my hope that all of these signs will survive into the future. I feel this is a realistic goal and the ever-growing support from the community is testament to that.

For more information or to join the movement, head here: www.facebook.com/SaveTheSignsOnColfax

Photography: Barbara Gal
Check out Barbara’s latest exhibit at Denver International Airport, 45 Years in Colorado.