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Mission


Core

Western Neon School of Art is a non-profit institution based in Seattle that supports the exploration of light, space, and interactive technologies.

Initiative 

Establish infrastructure, classrooms, studio space, and visiting artist programs for the exploration of light-based media built on a foundation of theory, art history, and technical skills. 

Outreach

Provide students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn the knowledge and skills necessary to design, create, and exhibit light-based media in a collaborative, inclusive environment. 

 

History


Origin

Since the late 1950’s, neon art pioneer Dean Blazek and Wisconsin have been at the epicenter of the neon industry in the United States. While attending art school in Milwaukee, Dean began his training at Everbrite Signs, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of neon. He went on to establish the Northern Wisconsin Neon Workshop in Antigo in 1979. Attracting visitors from across the globe, he educated hundreds of students in the secrets of working with neon, glass bending, and the applied arts. In the mid-1980’s, Dean extended his long-time passion for sharing information by writing the column “Neon Techniques” for industry mainstay Signs of the Times and went on to publish what has become a touchstone text: “Neon ABC’s.”

Impact

Influenced by his drive, Dean’s sons Michael and Jay both trained under their father. Michael, who did apprenticeships in Australia and New Zealand, opened Western Neon in 1985 as an art gallery devoted to the illuminated arts. Jay came on board in the mid-1980’s and alongside Michael, transformed Western Neon into one of the United States’ premier sign manufacturers by imbuing each project with inspiration and quality. As Jay took ownership of the business, Michael relocated to Brisbane, Australia in 1989 to open his shop, Neon Specialists. They closed the circle on their father’s work in 1993 by releasing “Neon: The Next Generation” – transforming their collective contributions to the medium into a family effort.

Legacy

Western Neon has been a studio, gallery, custom sign business, and Seattle mainstay powered by creativity since its inception. Upon joining Western Neon in 2004, now President and owner André Lucero dreamed about establishing a school for teaching classes centered around illuminated media with a focus on the history and skills needed to work in this unique practice. He teamed with Kelsey Fernkopf, a master-level technician with over 30 years of experience, and prolific contemporary artist Dylan Neuwirth to launch a non-profit institution focused on a new wave of neon artists exploring light, space, and interactive technologies. Together, they founded the Western Neon School of Art in summer of 2017. 

 

Team


Founder

André Lucero began his exploration of illuminated media in rural Oklahoma working with lighting, gels, disco balls, and a variety of homemade circuitry boards in his family's production stage company. Joining Western Neon in 2004, he intensively trained under the expertise of Jay Blazek until his departure in 2010, earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master Sign Electrician's License, and is now the President. André has since redefined Western Neon by executing notable projects with Pacific Northwest icons such as Rainier Beer, Seattle Arts Museum, Nike, KEXP, and Chihuly Studio.

technical Director

Kelsey Fernkopf is both an experienced artist and glass technician. After earning a BFA in Sculpture at the University of Kansas, Kelsey worked with Fred Elliot, his neon mentor and student of Dean Blazek at the Northern Wisconsin School of Neon. Finishing a five week class in neon fabrication with Fred, Kelsey entered the neon sign industry and moved to Seattle, quickly establishing a reputation as one of the top neon tube-benders in the region. Kelsey has exhibited his artwork in galleries and museums nationally and brings over 30 years of neon craft experience to the teaching program at Western Neon School of Art.

executive Director

Dylan Neuwirth is a contemporary artist working with light, space, and interactive technologies. He has participated in numerous solo, group, and public art exhibitions including curatorial and web-based projects. His work is in private and institutional collections, and has appeared in CreatorsThe Wall Street Journal, WIRED, and VICE. From 2007-2016, he executed large-scale architectural glass commissions across North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia as a Project Manager with Chihuly Studio. He is currently the Creative Director of Western Neon and represented by SEASON.