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.

Advertisements

Throw Paint on Walls, Repeat.

Wandering the streets of West Colfax is hardly a colorless experience, what with all those neon signs, cruising automobiles, and oddball but interesting characters (and trust me, I’m one of them). If you’ve wandered recently though, you’ve noticed new creative endeavors on the sides of buildings, beautifying both your physical and your creative path, and setting your wandering mind to well, wandering.

We speak to Business Improvement District Executive Director Bill Marino about the medium of art titled – The Mural.

Why murals?

COLorFAX Debut Mural, Johanna Parker

COLorFAX Debut Mural, Johanna Parker

The first thing anyone needs to know when we start talking about murals is the COLorFAX program. That was a joint conversation between WCCA (West Colfax Community Association) and 40W Arts. It’s all about [bringing] color and noticeable difference to the corridor, and we can do that through art, large-scale art. The big strategy is, if we create enough murals, that it becomes an outdoor art gallery; it pulls people here to see them, just because they’re here. In a few years, we could have 15-20, even 30, 40 murals. How cool is that? You can ride your bike, take a walk, drive, and come enjoy an outdoor art gallery.

Murals are seen and shared by an entire community. How do you pick a successful design?

We wanted to speak to the community in some way, and connect with the community in some way. Our creative briefs say that, but allow for the [artist] interpretation of being bold or subtle. We are looking to inspire, uplift, and entertain. We’re not looking yet, to push up against the limits or challenge.

Tell me about the first COLorFAX project.

Hear the Train A Humming, Bobby MaGee Lopez

Hear the Train A Humming, Bobby MaGee Lopez

The first design on King’s Rest Motel was volunteer-driven, modest money. Artist Johanna Parker penciled in the design the day before, and 18 or 19 people showed up, followed her sketch, and then she and [artist] Lonnie Hanzon did the detail work. The cost was modest because it was all volunteer, we had paint donated by Kwal Paints, and some of the other cost was donated by the BID (Business Improvement District) as an investment in improving the corridor.

What about the mural ‘Hear the Train A Humming’ by Bobby MaGee Lopez?

Astro Supply Building [where the mural is located] was executed with CGBD funds; those are federal funds that are allocated to cities to accomplish certain things, grants in place for community development. This was specifically a graffiti-mitigation strategy. That wall gets tagged all the time, and we’ve had great success where we’ve put up murals, they’ve never been touched. So we got a certain allocation from the city and there was a Call for Artists. And when we do a call, [artists] come in with their concepts, they present their concepts, and the committee makes a decision.

What additional projects are currently in progress?

Action Center Mural (in progress), Martha Pinkard-Williams

We also have a mural project underway at The Action Center [a non-profit human services agency]. The Call for Artists reads ‘The Action Center is expanding its headquarters, and this mural project is designed to create an iconic ‘landmark’ mural for the community, while embodying [our] mission of providing an immediate response to human needs and promoting pathways to self-sufficiency.”

 

 

 

 

Check out additional pictures and relevant links below!

 

Artist Johanna Parker: http://www.johannaparkerdesign.com

Artist Bobby MaGee Lopez: http://www.bobbymageelopez.com

Artist Martha Pinkard-Williams: https://www.facebook.com/martha.pinkardwilliams

Photography Richard Eversley (Action Center Mural), 40W Arts District (King’s Rest and Astro Supply Building)

Food As Art

“Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.”
– Louise Fresco

My husband and I, like any healthy American couple, love to eat out together. It’s our time together (notwithstanding my occasional reminder for him to put away Clash of Clans and look up from his iPhone) and it has produced some of the loudest laughter, most dynamic storytelling, and keenest insights about our relationship and our future together.

Tonight (October 22) 40W Arts District hosts the opening reception for its current exhibition, Farm to Table. The party takes place from 5:30-7:30pm and I’m certain that great art, great conversation, and great libations will all abound.

And in that vein, of celebrating food as love, art, and communal stomping ground, my husband and I decided to hit the streets of West Colfax for one full day of eating out. I ordered the food, he took the pictures, and we both chowed down.

Breakfast

Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters
1619 Reed Street, Lakewood, CO
http://sweetbloomcoffee.com

 

Lunch

Five Star Bakery
8440 W Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, CO

 

Dinner

Kazoku Sushi
10665 W Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, CO
http://www.kazokusushicolorado.com

Don’t forget to head to 40W Arts District from October 20 – November 22 for the Farm to Table art exhibition. Take a friend, and share a meal afterwards.

“I like to use ‘I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter’ on my toast in the morning, because sometimes when I eat breakfast, I like to be incredulous. How was breakfast? Unbelievable.
– Demetri Martin

For additional awesome food quotes, click here .

Photography: Steven Haire

40W Artist Documentary Series: Greg Wasil

My sincerest thanks to my co-conspirator Melanie Stover, artist and sculptor Greg Wasil, and artist and video artist Robert Evans for their dedication, commitment, and energy to this project.

Robert Tammany Evans grew up in Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho, making art at an early age. He recently graduated from Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design with an emphasis in video. Robert uses modern digital technology as well as a combination of traditional artistic practices including drawing, photography, and music. See more of his work: roberttammanyevans.tumblr.com or contact him here: rte1023@gmail.com

Greg Wasil learned early to love the world of metal and machines. His father was a welder and passed to Greg the pleasures of making, shaping, getting dirty, and working with his hands. Greg transforms metal and other materials to craft large and small sculptures. You can read his full artist statement and look at more of his work here: www.justsomethingdifferent.com

Can the curator make art, and should she?

Gustav Klimt always held a fascination for me. Ethereal, eclectic, and exotic; his is the kind of work that attracts both heavyweight art school graduates and casual museum-goers alike. And so, walking into the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, Austria about a week ago, where many of his most famous works reside, became an experience for me.

Viewing a famous painting in person and up close is a special experience. A painting loved on a screen or written page expands exponentially in person, and allows the viewer to get up close and personal with the colors, brush strokes, and emotions that simply don’t translate in the same manner anywhere else. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, arguably his most famous work, took center stage in the main room of The Belvedere. I got to see it, experience it, revel in it.

But next to The Kiss, in a small alcove to the left, stood another lesser work by an equally famous artist. The film Kiss, by Andy Warhol, played on repeat on a small unassuming television in the center of the room. Kiss, one of Warhol’s first films, explored the ideas of cultural appropriateness and censorship that were predominant at that time. Kiss shows people kissing, for three and a half full minutes and in every type of configuration including male to male.

I picked up on a heavy sense of ambivalence almost immediately. Some viewers like myself, seemed delighted by the juxtaposition of these two pieces. To show two equally famous 20th century artists side-by-side, examining and contemplating their versions of the most basic and fundamental expression of Western love, the kiss, felt creative and unexpected to me.

But other viewers appeared uncomfortable, almost turned off in particular by Andy Warhol’s work. Perhaps it violated some basic law to force Gustav Klimt to share the spotlight with another artist. That an idea or concept – kissing – took equal precedence to a famous work of art appeared to lessen the experience for these viewers.

It left me pondering the role of curators for quite a while.

Should a famous piece of art be left to stand alone?
Is it appropriate for the curator to consciously create a mood, to change or alter the viewing experience through placement of art or other methods?
Does the viewer have a right to look at art, particularly famous art, without their view being obstructed or changed by other objects?

You can take a look at both pieces below and decide for yourself. Write me a comment. I’m interested to know what you think.

Watch Kiss, by Andy Warhol in full at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmzqNUaCGQU

Head here to see the entire Gustav Klimt collection at The Belvedere.

It’s Gift Season in Lakewood! RTD Boxes Get Wrapped … with Artwork.

The city of Lakewood recently acquired funding from RTD Public Transit to wrap electrical boxes along the West Colfax Corridor. The city, along with 40W Arts District, worked to find a variety of graphic designers who would capture and highlight key aspects of this diverse and historical neighborhood. Multiple boxes are already complete with more to come! Check them out on the W Line Light Rail or by using the adjacent bike/walk path.

Below, 40W artist Johanna Parker invites us into her artistic process through pictures and visuals. Also check out the full list of artists, and accompanying pictures for the already completed boxes.

 

Unwrapping the Creative Process with Artist Johanna Parker:

Depew Street Box: “Together We Grow”
Lamar Street Box: “Buzzing with Color”

You can see more of Johanna’s work as a whimsical folk artist and illustrator at: http://www.johannaparkerdesign.com

 

The Full List:

Pierce Street Box: Michelle Wolins
Teller Street Box: Michelle Wolins
Harlan Street Box: Tim Stortz
Depew Street Box: Johanna Parker
Lamar Street Box: Johanna Parker
Please note that all boxes are adjacent to the W Line Light Rail.

Thanks to the artists, the city of Lakewood, RTD, and 40W Arts District for inspiring creativity and imagination through urban art.

 

How did he do that? Artist Greg Wasil explains his process.

Guest blogger Greg Wasil walks us through his artistic process for his recent work “Lug Nut” in our Rolling Route 40: The Hubcap Art Show.

Lug Nut, Greg WasilCONTEMPLATION:

I have been saving stuff for many years.
Mostly car stuff, but really anything interesting.
Then I heard about the hubcap show at 40 West Arts District.
I had a big box of hubcaps and knew I could do this.
It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
I just started putting hubcaps on the floor and rearranging them until it looked good.
I had two matching caps and put them down as eyes.
Now I had the eyes, but how would I make a nose, a mouth?
I just kept trying different caps in place to look like a face, but it did not seem complete laying on the floor.
After many attempts I had something that looked good, but it still needed more.
I can see things in my head but I have a hard time drawing them, but I got a pencil and paper and scratched out an outline of a face, drew in the hubcaps, and had what I wanted.

ACTION:Lug Nut, Greg Wasil

I got some plywood, drew out my shape, and cut it with my reciprocating saw.
Then some sand paper to smooth the edges and it was time to put the hubcaps on.
I put the caps on, but it did not look right, so a little sanding and playing with different things and I had my face.
It still needed something.
I got some stain for the plywood, put in some red pearl paint I use for auto work, and stained the face.
Much better.
Now I had to make all the hubcaps stay on.
First I tried to glue them, but when I picked it up and the plywood started to bend, they all fell off.
Now that was not going to work, so on to plan two, screw them on.
I did not want screws showing so I had to screw them on from the back.
Easier said than done.
I had to measure where I wanted everything, drill holes, and screw it together.
It looked good, but was still missing something, hair.
Off I go looking for hair.
In the corner I had a bucket of lug nuts and after several try’s, had what I needed, but how to put them on?
I got screws, put them in from the front, and glued the lug nuts to them.
It only took me about ten hours to complete, but it took me weeks to plan and make “Lug Nut” look like I wanted it to.

Greg Wasil
WAZ
justsomethingdifferent.com

Greg Wasil learned early to love the world of metal and machines. His father was a welder and passed to Greg the pleasures of making, shaping, getting dirty, and working with his hands. Greg transforms metal and other materials to craft large and small sculptures. You can read his full artist statement and look at more of his work here: www.justsomethingdifferent.com