DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
Introducing Sentral’s Artist in Residence program taking place at Sentral DTLA. Photo courtesy of Mike Zorbas.

Introducing Sentral’s Artist in Residence Program DTLA

In 1923, the streets of downtown Los Angeles lit up like never before in a blazing blue hue emanating from two Packard signs on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Hope Street — the first neon signs in the United States. 
Now, just shy of 100 years later and six blocks away, neon’s next generation of glass-bending — and tradition-spinning — artists are coming to Sentral
DTLA 732 S. Spring
and
DTLA at 755 S. Spring
as part of Sentral’s new Artist in Residence (AIR) program. 
The program — the first neon residence program — kicks off in Los Angeles with neon artist Kacie Lees from February until April 2022. Read on for more information about the program.

THE ART: NEON

Kacie Lees bending neon at Sentral DTLA. Photo courtesy of MIke Zorbas.
An iconic hallmark of American culture, neon has long lent a familiar glow to the country’s urban strips.
Neon is still created using traditional methods: Each piece is blown and shaped by hand, bombarded for purity (that is, heated while a vacuum pump extracts all the air out), and filled with a noble gas. Each bend in a piece of neon must be individually fired and shaped, meaning that something as simple as a letter B can involve seven to eight individual bending processes. 
Though wildly versatile, the art form is still mainly seen as a way to make signage. It's also a craft that has been historically commercial and male-dominated.
Today, an emerging collection of diverse female neon benders is revitalizing the art form, transcending traditional applications to create impressive works of neon art while championing the medium’s sustainable nature (when produced correctly, neon’s glass and metal hardware can be infinitely repaired) and educating a new generation of artists. 
With the legacy of neon intricately woven into Downtown Los Angeles’ urban landscape, it’s only fitting that a neon artist,
Kacie Lees
, will stay and work at Sentral DTLA.

THE ARTIST: KACIE LEES

Neon artist Kacie Lees will be Sentral’s artist in residence. Artwork by Kacie Lees.
Based in New York, Kacie Lees is an interdisciplinary artist working in printmaking, neon, and video; as a professor of art and technology studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, her practice blurs studio experimentation with instructional design. Kacie’s focus is on what she calls “polychromatic smears” — holograms, oil slicks, rainbows, aurora — and “the poetic power of optics to gain immersive insight into the dynamics of working with light as a tactile medium.”
“I want L.A.'s sun and colors to permeate a new body of neon work in reference to an ongoing study of light and effect,” Kacie says of her intentions at Sentral DTLA. “I habitually make small, repeated forms in neon and display them en masse. The forms become an imperfect pattern across a wall — some large, some small, some off-center, some upside down — all with an individual presence and fervor.”
During her residency, Kacie will also teach experimental bending and color courses at the
Museum of Neon Art
in Glendale, create and distribute a "neon manifesto," and contribute writing to an upcoming handbook on holography.

THE TEAM: SENTRAL AND SHE BENDS

Sentral is partnering with She Bends for the AIR program in Los Angeles. Artwork by Kacie Lees.
To create Sentral’s AIR, we’ve partnered with
She Bends
, a California-based organization supporting women and gender-expansive artists bending neon and pushing the art form’s boundaries beyond the confines of commercial signage.
She Bends co-owner Kelsey Issel, who also works as an art consultant and art program director, will be responsible for the design and implementation of the pilot program. She Bends will provide neon equipment and its community network for the residency's partnerships and events.
"Integrating art into our public spaces continues with our AIR program. We’re thrilled to support Kacie with the resources and community necessary to nurture experimentation and the development of new work while also providing a meaningful cultural and artistic exchange for Sentral residents,” Erica Coffman, Sentral’s product strategy and design consultant, says.

THE EXPERIENCE

AIR events open to Sentral DTLA residents will include a neon demonstration, studio tour, and art walk led by Kacie.
Kacie will live and work at Sentral DTLA from February until April 2022, engaging with residents and the larger L.A. arts community. She will produce a custom piece of neon to display at Sentral DTLA and add to Sentral’s private art collection, which also includes a growing number of onsite murals at Sentral properties by illustration artist Chris DeLorenzo. 
While AIR events will open exclusively to Sentral DTLA residents, including a
neon demonstration, studio tour, and art walk led by Kacie
, the public is invited to watch Kacie working in her pop-up studio on the ground floor of Sentral DTLA at 755 S. Spring Street. Walk past during the week and you could catch a glimpse of Kacie bending glass over fire. Additionally, some of her most recent works will be aglow from the windows — we invite you to come take a peek!

CONTACT

To see more of Kacie’s work and life at Sentral DTLA, follow along on
Instagram
and
TikTok
at
@SentralLife
.
For more information on Sentral’s Artist in Residence Program DTLA and press inquiries, please contact
Misfit Toys
.
For more information on Kacie Lees, visit
kacielees.com
, and for She Bends, visit
shebends.com
.

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