A one-of-a-kind, glowing art museum in a most unexpected place? This is definitely worth a road trip.
More specifically, more than two dozen neon signs that glow 24/7 in an alleyway in the Union Avenue Historic district.
As the kids these days would say? It’s lit!
The one-of-a-kind public art project is curated by collector Joe Koncilja, a criminal defense attorney whose office is adjacent to the alleyway. Over the years, Koncilja has amassed more than 100 neon signs, mostly from online auctions, and the goal is to get each one of them up and glowing in the alley.
Every sign in the collection comes with a dose of unique history and tells a story of place. Take for instance the grasshopper green police sign that once hung outside a station in Pasadena during neon’s heyday in the 40s and 50s. Or a big, juicy burger with all the fixings illuminated in neon that is leftovers from Tommy’s Burgers, an iconic burger spot in Los Angeles.
Some signs are local, too, including Aladdin’s genie lamp originating from a southern Colorado bar and the Walter’s Beer sign Koncilja sourced from a local brewery in Pueblo.
Koncilja has been gathering the signs for the past two decades and compares his hobby to collecting potato chips because the neon glass is so fragile and prone to cracking. Thankfully, Boyd’s Neon, a shop in nearby Colorado Springs, aids with the restoration of the signs.
Zoning regulations in Pueblo mean the neon signs can’t be affixed to buildings facing the street, but the alleyway is fair game.
Plus, the grit of a tucked-away alley in this historic mining town glitzed up with neon makes for a magical juxtaposition.
Koncilja’s tagline for Pueblo’s Neon Alley? “It’s the greatest assembly of neon art west of Time Square and east of the Las Vegas Strip.”
He hopes the public art collection becomes a known tourist destination as well as a favorite spot for art-loving locals. To give it a nudge, he plans to install a platform and have music playing so couples can dance under the neon lights.
Can we make a song request? Debbie Gibson’s “Electric Youth,â€ please.