I have been reluctant to write about Ignite. Ignite is a somewhat new neon sign museum in Tucson, AZ that Ruth & I did not see when we were there last month. We did not see it because it was never opened when we could go. It’s only opened Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. Another website says it’s closed on Saturday but opened until 4:30 most days. This confusion is not a good sign about these signs, but in truth we found most indoor activities stillI closed in this city due to COVID and likely to remain so until at least the fall of 2021. Nevertheless, I regret not seeing Ignite.
There seems to be a modestly growing interest in old neon signs. Our son Matt was given one when he changed companies several years ago in Canada, and the family got interested in neon art. Ruth and I have been to several of the museums devoted to this type of lighting. The most interesting to us was the neon museum in Las Vegas, which also seems to be the most popular museum devoted to it. This is for a good reason. Las Vegas has a history of exhibiting lots of neon, and this museum had many signs from old, no-longer-in-existence casinos and other Las Vegas businesses that visitors remember and recognize. However, the city of Las Vegas has been shut down for several months now. We found the Las Vegas Neon Museum at 770 Las Vegas Blvd. North’s evening tour especially interesting and well-attended because many of its signs were on nightly for improved viewing. Many of the signs when we were there were still unrestored, so this museum’s nickname was The Neon Boneyard. Some of the signs that have been restored by its maintenance crew are on display around Las Vegas like the one on top. I wrote about The Boneyard as “An Essential Neon Museum”.
Atlas Obscura compliments the Ignite Sign Art Museum on its wide variety of signs. They range from historic to LED. Jude Cook is the founder of Ignite. He spent his life designing signs, but not in Tucson. He and his wife Monica moved to Tucson in 1983. After 1972 he was in the sign business in Iowa. Jude and Monica moved to Tucson because it had a national reputation for having a lot of original neon art scattered around town. Since this move Jude has restored a lot of these historic signs. The museum here devoted to them called Ignite opened in 2018.
Ruth & I traveled to Cincinnati, OH specifically to see its neon museum and talk to its technicians. Since this vast expanse of neon has 20,000 feet of space, it’s the most dazzling display of lit neon I have ever seen. Examples are just above. I wrote about it under the title “American Sign Museum in Cincinnati”. If you are looking for a more artful approach to neon design, go to MONA in Glendale, CA. We have been tracking neon design in the LA area for many years. Ruth & my interest in the Museum of Neon Art there goes back to when it first opened downtown. “Magnificent MONA” came along in Glendale in 2015 after the downtown museum had long closed. MOMA is now devoted to current, decidedly different neon artists.
Before going to Tucson, I downloaded lots of info about its neon signs. I hoped to see the Sparkle Cleaners sign, Monterey Court’s neon, Magic Carpet Golf, and many other examples of its vivid signs. However, many of them were not turned on during the day, Ignite Museum was closed, signs were often far apart and not easily accessed, and we could not find a tour to join. We gave up on neon in Tucson. I asked one owner there if he could turn on his sign for me and he agreed, but it was in too much competition with sunlight. The only sign I got a really good look at was Caruso’s Italian Restaurant downtown, but the restaurant did not open for business until 2 pm, so the sign was not lit. We did not make it back.
I would like to return to Tucson to learn more about its reputation as a city that still has lots of classic neon signs, but truthfully I have a better chance of seeing the National Neon Sign Museum that opened in The Dalles in 2018. We live not too far from this Oregon town on the Columbia River and we expect to be going through it in the next 2 weeks.