Signs, signs—everywhere you look there are signs at the new Ignite Sign Art Museum, which opened on October 10th in Tucson! There are 250 signs of all types lighting up the walls including: neon, hand painted, gold leaf, tin signs and even pin striping from Tucson, Phoenix and beyond.
Walk through Johnie’s diner, check out the Tucson iconic miniatures and the advertising clock, beer, alcohol and cigarette areas. Move into the Retro Room and find the “NO Wall.” Turn the corner and window shop in the storefronts along The Avenue. Stop, play and explore the interactive exhibits along the way and, before you leave, write your memories in the Museum’s nostalgia book.
It all started over forty years ago when Museum founder Jude Cook collected his first sign. It was a Coca Cola sign that a sign painter was using as a roller pan and Jude asked if he could have it. He has spent his career in the design and sign industry. He began his own sign business over 40 years ago, first in Iowa and then moving Cook & Company Sign Makers to Tucson. About nine years ago, he started restoring historic neon signs in Tucson and has restored 23 in the area, several in Casa Grande and one in Silver City, NM.
As a sign painter himself, Jude continued to collect signs, both large and small. Several years ago, he hosted a 40th anniversary party at his business and lit up the signs he’d been saving over the years. Attendees loved the signs, the lights and the history.
His collection had reached ‘critical mass’ by filling the walls and the backyard of his sign business and taking over parts of his home so it was time to do something with all those signs! Jude and his wife, Monica Hay-Cook, decided to share the collection with the community and their plans have now been realized with the opening of Ignite Sign Art Museum.
Monica says, “Our museum is about education, preservation and entertainment. There’s a lot of interest in the historic neon signs as art and our focus is on Tucson and the Southwest. We recently acquired the Moe Allen sign from the Phoenix area. Another great sign, Pioneer Hotel, originally came from Globe.”
As well as working on establishing Ignite, Monica, along with her sister, Marlies Hay-William, have moved their shop Deco into the museum from its previous Tucson location of nearly ten years. The Gift Shop will feature a wide variety, including salvage letters, vintage theater letters, jewelry (Marlies’ specialty), neon wall art, cards, lamps (custom w/neon and mid-century), customized miniatures, toys, a kids’ section and lots more. If it’s lighted and neon, it’s bound to be at Deco.
Located at 331 S. Olsen, Tucson, Ignite Sign Art Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bring your family and friends and come enjoy the signs, the lights and the interactive displays. There will also be neon, lettering, gold leaf, beading and art classes.
General Admission is $11 and $9 for seniors over age 65 and Military; $8 for students with ID and children ages 6 to 17; and free for children under 6. To learn more, visit www.ignitemuseum.com, follow Ignite Sign Art Museum on Facebook or call 520-319-0888.
Jude’s original business, Cook & Company Sign Makers, is located at 134 S. Tucson Blvd., Tucson. Complete information can be found at: www.cooksigns.com or by calling 520-622-2868.