The Museum of Neon Art (MONA) encourages learning, curiosity and expression through the preservation, collection and interpretation of neon, electric and kinetic art.
MONA has been a non-profit art museum in Los Angeles since our founding in 1981. Now in our 32nd year and only 18 months away from moving into our permanent, new home in the City of Glendale, we are focused on restoring some of the most challenging signs in the collection to display in the new facility.
In 2001 MONA and another museum were each set to receive one of the two neon dragon marquees upon their removal from the landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. For 43 years these iconic neon dragons graced the marquee with their glowing presence, entertaining visitors with their animation and illuminating a long list of well-known Hollywood movie premieres and celebrities.
However, when their take-down day arrived, word came that the owners had changed their minds, rescinded their donation and decided instead to keep the dragon signs for themselves in an outdoor storage yard.
Letters were written and a petition was signed by those who were concerned about the signs’ future. Yet nothing changed the minds of the signs’ owners to return to their original agreement and donate the dragons to MONA.
Although the marquees were in perfect, working condition when they were removed from the Chinese Theater, neglect took a heavy toll. The signs remained in a destructive limbo for six years with no maintenance, no protection from the elements or from souvenir hunters. After these many years, the dragons’ owners concluded the signs were unsalvageable and orders were given to remove them to a dump.
Like magic, the Neon Gods were watching over that landmark sign and word found its way to us that another attempt must be made to rescue those neon dragons or lose them forever.
In 2007, MONA finally came into possession of the neon dragons and immediately placed them in a protective indoor warehouse. Still, the damage had been done by the previous owner’s haphazard storage and neglect.
Today, MONA has retained the West-facing dragon and gifted the East-facing one to another local non-profit institution. With the opening of MONA’s new museum just around the corner, the restored dragon will have a new home in the public eye, greeting museum visitors.
To make that happen, we’re asking for your help in restoring the Chinese Theater’s dragon to its animated and glowing glory!
The task is a big one… but with your contribution, it will be done!
WHAT WE NEED TO DO
- Clean out decades of gunk both on the inside and outside of each 20’ section of the 40’ long dragon.
- Restore and replace badly rusted and weak portions of the sign with new metal and reshape areas that had been damaged in haphazard storage condition.
- Make paper pattern of the hand-painted design by working with the existing painted surface as well as photographically research its original paint scheme.
- Remove as much of the existing surface paint as possible to smooth and prepare the dragons for new paint.
- Prime the metal surface to prepare for the final painting.
- Paint the dragon!
- Make paper patterns for the glass neon units.
- Purchase the glass tubing and engage a skilled neon bender to fabricate and process the glass units....all 65 of them! (Through research and by enlarging old photos and postcards of the Grauman's Chinese Theater, we have determined the original neon-tube colors that graced the dragon.)
- Recreate the exact animated sequencing. (The 1974 Mel Brooks classic "Blazing Saddles" will be used to view the animation of the neon tubing on the dragon and will help our restorers recreate the sequencing.)
- Purchase neon supplies for installing the neon tubing, including transformers, animators and GTO wire.
- Wire electricals and install all of the above.
- Build a metal framework with wheels to support the dragon for exhibition.
Approximately 20% of total goal will cover production of perks, mailing costs and fees. 80% of total goal will fund the three phases listed above. Additional donations, if any, will be spent on our ongoing restoration projects.
Your donation will help us to relight an icon of neon, Hollywood and theater architectural history! No other pictorial marquee of this scale, magnitude and importance has survived once it was removed from the original theater on which it stood. Help us relight the Chinese Theater dragon; make a donation today!
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
If you are unable to contribute financially, you can still help! Share our website, our Facebook page, or use Indiegogo’s share tools on this page to help us get the word out! Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful forms of support! We truly appreciate you for reading our story! THANK YOU!
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$10 Virtual Dragon: Image design by Kurt Wahlner for your computer dekstop!
$25 Mark the Dragon: A bookmark!
$50 Magnify the Dragon: Lenticular postcard showing the Dragon neon lit at night and unlit in daylight.
$150 Wear the Dragon: Black t-shirt with stunning and bold image of the dragon.
$250 Attract the Dragon: Laser-cut refrigerator magnet with a digital illustration by Endangered Architecture of Tucson.
$500 Capture the Dragon: Limited edition giclee print by Tom Zimmerman Photography.
$1000 Walk the Dragon: In addition to a walking tour of the Grauman Chinese Theater, you get a set of 4 customized magnets with your name on the marquee!
$5000 Time the Dragon: MONA's very own neon clock by Curtis Clocks!
$10,000 Ride the Dragon: Your name acknowledged on metal plaque affixed to top of the sign. (Limited to 2 names per donation).