Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mel Shields: Neon exhibition lights up Reno again

Mel Shields: Neon exhibition lights up Reno again - Reno/Tahoe Travel - The Sacramento Bee



Two cowboys stand next to each other, their arms crossed, their
legs spread,
and their brightly colored neon chaps overlapping, the
right leg of one merging with the left leg of the other.
They were familiar sights, these neon cowboys, to anyone who visited the
Mapes Hotel-Casino in downtown Reno before its 2000 implosion.

After it opened in 1946, the Mapes was for a long time the biggest,
most modern hotel in the city.
It featured top entertainers in its Sky
Room and became the select place to stay for celebrities,
including Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe when they filmed "The Misfits."

The shine didn't last. When the Mapes closed in 1982, it was so out
of date,
the elevators still were human-operated. Still, there's plenty
of nostalgia for the old place,
as well as for other Reno landmarks that
became regular stops for tourists.
Those memories are the main
attraction of "The Light Circus: Art of Nevada Neon"
at the Nevada
Museum of Art through Feb. 10.
Reno collector Will Durham has
worked for the past decade to build the collection.
He and the museum
joined forces to restore, rewire and relight the pieces that truly

represent Reno's and the rest of Nevada's appeal through the mid-part of
the 20th century.
Neon was essential. Most of the best-known
images are gone now, but the exhibition
includes yet another cowboy,
this one in the shape of the state itself, cowboy hat worn
tilted on the
side, hand raised in greeting, and chaps ablaze; he stood over the
to the Nevada Club, now incorporated into Harrah's Reno. There
are images from Harolds Club,
also now incorporated into Harrah's, and
signs from other businesses, most notably
Parker's Western Wear, a
destination in and of itself. (160 W. Liberty St., Reno; 10 a.m. to 5
Wednesdays through Sundays, until 8 p.m. Thursdays; $10, $8 senior/
student, $1 children 6-12; 775-329-3333 or

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