Shining Bright: The Neon Museum’s Residency Artists

By Jo Russ

Gathered around a small table in the Nevada Humanities Program Gallery, children and adults alike are fascinated with a set of hand-carved mahjong tiles, featuring reclaimed Filipino cultural symbols. The artist responsible for creating the ‘Maynila Set’ is Karl Orozco, the Neon Museum’s current National Artist in Residence (AIR). A teaching artist based in Queens, NY, Orozco will reside in Las Vegas for eight weeks absorbing the local culture and working in the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio space, taking inspiration from the Neon Museum’s sign collection.

The Neon AIR: Radiant Residents exhibition at the Nevada Humanities Program Gallery showcases neon artworks created by inaugural resident artist Whitney Lynn in 2016, and Allison Wiese in 2017, now part of the Neon Museum’s growing contemporary art collection. Recent works by Karl Orozco are also on display, along with an unusual multi-bend neon item from the museum’s education collection, created by W.A. Schreiber in 1950.

Cynthia Behr Warso, Director of Education & Engagement at The Neon Museum, describes the residency program as committed to leveraging the strength of the collection to develop new opportunities for the arts, artists, performers, and the public. “As a teaching tool the artistic process is powerful, especially when combined with our artifacts – the signs. Humans need to know how to make things, to solve problems, to make mistakes, and pick up the puzzle again and again,” she stated.

Congruent with Nevada Humanities’ mission of fostering cultural enrichment and connection, two events were scheduled during the course of the Neon AIR exhibition. During the June Preview Thursday event, Warso gave an introduction to the National Residency program, and for July Preview Thursday, Karl Orozco shared about his graphics projects with Filipino and Asian-American communities and his experiences as a teaching artist. Attendees were also invited to engage in play with his unique ‘Maynila’ mahjong set.

For those interested in learning the basics of this centuries-old game, Orozco will be hosting a Mahjong Play and Print event at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio, where participants play to win a take-home print of their winning hand. The Neon Museum’s education team hopes you can join this free event!

The Neon Museum would like to acknowledge Nevada Humanities, the Nevada Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Endowment for the Arts for providing support with its arts and education programs.

Karl Orozco_The Maynila Set_linoeum carvings mounted on MDF board, shellac, 42 tiles_ 1.5_x2_ each.jpg

Neon AIR: Radiant Residents is on display at the Nevada Humanities Program Gallery in Las Vegas, until July 26. Mahjong Play & Print will be offered at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio, Sunday, August 5, 3-7 p.m. Open Studio with Karl Orozco at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio is on Friday, August 24, 6-9 p.m.

Jo Russ, Arts Programs Coordinator at the Neon Museum, enjoys working with visiting residency artists and scholars, as well as developing workshop programs with local artists and community groups. Her favorite Neon Museum collection piece is the giant Coin Castle King, now ruling over the Museum’s new Ne10 Studio program space.