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Is It Lights Out for MONA Downtown?

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, September 23, 2009, at 03:51PM
Walking Past Art Ed Fuentes

This neon ART sign in the Museum of Neon Art's 4th street window has become an Old Bank District landmark.

After a long history in Downtown Los Angeles, The Museum of Neon Art may be taking refuge in the suburbs of Glendale.

Yesterday, the Glendale City Council voted unanimously to begin lease negotiations on a city-owned building at 216 S. Brand, reports the Glendale News Press.

Referred to as a "cultural jolt," the proposal accommodates MONA's need for space. Many landmark pieces in the collection, up to 40, are too large for its current space in the Old Bank District at 136 W. 4th.

If the deal goes through, MONA would hang its neon Brown Derby hat in the suburbs, away from its Downtown roots.

In June 1981, MONA first opened in on Traction Ave. The space, now owned by MONA co-founder Lili Lakich, serves as her studio and workspace. The museum then relocated to Universal City Walk before returning to a space at Olympic and Hope.

When that lease expired in 2006, the institution was temporarily homeless. Developer Tom Gilmore offered the Old Bank space as a temporary home, but both the size of MONA's collection and future development plans for the space made it clear from the beginning that the spot would not be the museum's permanent home.

“As you can see, MONA needs a permanent location to display these historic gems,” MONA Director Kim Koga told the Glendale News Press about the larger pieces still in storage.

Koga did not return a call for comment by the time this story was published.

The paper reports that the proposed 15-year lease includes a pledge from the City of Glendale for up to $1 million in redevelopment funds to restore the vacant building, where past uses have included Rite-Aid and the Salvation Army.

Under the agreement, MONA would pay $0 per month for the first two years, and top out at $7,500 per month.

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