Las Vegas has a problem. Maybe you can help.
After finishing up his “Red Piano” show at Caesars Palace this spring, Elton John donated the sign that hung above the stage to the city’s Neon Museum. Spelling out “Elton” in glowing neon letters with a heart-shaped arrow in between, the sign weighs in at 15,000 pounds, with the largest letter measuring 20 feet x 30 feet. Unfortunately, “Elton” is an indoor sign and the Neon Museum display area is currently all outdoors.
Enter the Las Vegas chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). It recognized that neon lights almost single-handedly transformed commercial signage in the 20th century. Where would Las Vegas or Tokyo’s Ginza be without neon? In fact, cities and towns in most parts of the world would be dark at night were it not for the glow of neon. It could be argued that neon signs made night life possible. In this case, the sign has extra special pop icon significance because the style of each letter is based on one of Las Vegas’s historic neon fonts and it was made for one of the world’s most recognized celebrity entertainers.
So, the Las Vegas AIGA joined forces with the Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs to find a worthy home for Elton’s sign. It considered offering it to the AIGA Design Center in Manhattan, but space limitations and the electricity budget made that unfeasible. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland is a possibility. Unless …someone else is interested. Except for a little broken neon glass and a minor broken electrical component, the “Elton” sign is structurally sound.
“Las Vegas, of course, would prefer not to have the sign leave town,” says Patty Mar Simmons, Las Vegas AIGA chapter president, “but it’s better for it to have a home where it can be seen and enjoyed.” According to Richard Hooker, senior cultural specialist for the Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, the city is not looking to sell the “Elton” sign, now officially a part of the Neon Museum collection, but to offer it on an extended loan basis, perhaps in perpetuity. There would be no charge for the loan, but the borrower would have to cover the cost of shipping and installation.
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