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Route 66 News

Albuquerque considers turning abandoned signs into public art

Let it rain

Albuquerque is considering an ordinance change that would make it easier to turn vacant and abandoned signs along old Route 66 into public art, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

Ellen Babcock of the Friends of the Orphan Signs nonprofit is one of those who support the idea. The newspaper said:

The art can be featured on printed vinyl and illuminated similar to a billboard, she said. The vinyl design can be taken down and moved when the term of the lease ends.

Property owners have already approached the city, she said. Some are eager to try five-year agreements and others like the idea of permanent artwork, Brueggemann said.

The city’s “1 percent for the arts” program would pay for the work. Artists would submit proposals when the city had a sign it wanted to lease, she said. […]

“They’re vestiges of history, and I’m always interested in that,” Babcock said. “To me, they’re portals to another a time period.”

A city committee recommended passage of the ordinance change, and the city council may vote on it as soon as next month.

At least one example of a sign turned into artwork is the former Serape restaurant on Route 66 (seen above). And it does include neon lighting in the outline.

I hold mixed feelings for the possibility of these orphaned but historic signs being altered. Route 66 travelers do take note of them when driving through the Duke City. Few would want anything to happen to the abandoned old Aztec Motel or Zia Motor Lodge signs. Hopefully, the city would take such icons into consideration before making changes.

But, sometimes, the motels or restaurants they advertised have been gone for decades, and the signs have deteriorated in New Mexico’s relentless sun and wind. If the signs are reused as quirky art and essentially preserved for a few more decades, that has to be a good thing.

UPDATE 12/2/2014: The city council unanimously approved the proposal, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

(Image of a repurposed Route 66 sign in Albuquerque by Justin Waits via Flickr)

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