The Museum of Neon Art Finds a Permanent Home Crafted by Shimoda Design Group

PROJECT NAME Museum of Neon Art
FIRM Shimoda Design Group
SQ. FT. 8,400 SQF

We have lots of MoMAs and MoCAs. Now we have a MoNA. That would be the Museum of Neon Art, finally getting a per­­manent home in Glendale, California, after a 35-year nomadic existence in and around Los Angeles. The project is furthermore a first for the Shimoda Design Group, which had never com­pleted a museum.

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Although relatively small for an arts institution, just 8,400 square feet, the project involved “everything but the kitchen sink,” Joey Shimoda says with a laugh. There were two clients, for starters, the private nonprofit MoNA for the interiors and the municipal government for the public promenade and building renovation. Glendale was seeking a culture component as part of a revitalization effort—heretofore, the most notable characters on the city’s cultural scene were Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Spider-Man, and the Hulk, all products of DreamWorks Animation SKG or Marvel’s local studios.

Originally, the MoNA site consisted of two 1970’s buildings with vacant storefronts, one a discount drug store and the other a video arcade. Shimoda demolished those as well as part of the remaining dividing wall. A further portion of the structures made way for a paseo.

In the larger resulting space, a light-and-bright combination entry and gift shop now flows into a gallery exhibiting both vintage signage and contemporary neon art beneath a painted-out ceiling. (Electrical capability was increased to power everything.) At the rear, a door swings open to a functioning workshop.

To draw the attention of people walking by, on the paseo, he re­invented the facade, installing expansive windows as well as ceramic tile glazed a moody black. But the sure-fire attraction is above: Cantilevering over the entry, a glassy enclosure contains a changing selection of works meant for viewing from afar. What doesn’t change is the 18-foot-wide neon diving girl perched on top. She’s a reproduction of a 1950 sign made for a motel.

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