Signs as works of art in the community – cialisdfr
Signs as works of art in the community
Signs as works of art in the community

When you’re walking or driving through a city, country or shopping mall, there’s one thing that’s everywhere: signs. Whether it’s the name of a business, directions or promoting a show, you just can’t escape the signs. They can also come in many different forms: from neon signs to simple ones, they are quite plentiful.

Prints of Lance Thomas’ artwork from his Signs of Community collection are seen here at a reception held at Whitewater’s Art Alliance located on Main Street on March 21, 2024.
(Katie McIlheran)

To display signs, the Whitewater Arts Alliance teamed up with photographer Lance Thomas in their “Community Signs” exhibit. This exhibit features photos of signs around Wisconsin, including Madison, Milwaukee, and Whitewater. Also includes photos from other cities, such as Boston, St. Louis, and Cleveland.

“If I were to come to Whitewater, I would travel around the town, get to know it in person and photograph it,” Thomas said. “I went around every block I could: high street, off high street, everywhere I could, took thousands of photos and picked my favorites out of them. A lot of them just came from my whitewater walk.

One photo that was featured in the exhibit was of the newly torn down “Hawk Bowl” sign. The photo, which is Thomas’ favorite, features the neon sign glowing in the night sky.

“It was one of my favorites from the start. Any neon sign where the sky is dark and blue like it was at dusk will be good. In life, no one tells you when something is going to disappear,” Thomas said.

When looking at these photos, don’t just pay attention to the photo, pay attention to the frame. Each frame is designed to fit the specific photo it frames.

“They come together in a few different ways,” Thomas said. “I can be inspired by the material and then the photo connects, or I have a photo and find the material. I never force it together. There has to be a reason or rationale for why I choose the material.’

One frame that seemed unique was fr

Lance Thomas’ artwork Signs of Community is seen here on display at the Whitewater Art Alliance on March 21, 2024. (Katie McIlheran)

from the photo “Gas Wipe”. The frame is a metal toilet paper holder surrounded by a simple wooden frame. Another frame that Thomas describes as not included in the exhibition includes a system of pulleys and rope that represent the picture of a theater.

“Why can’t the frame become part of the art and support the photos instead of the photos being placed in a beautiful frame?” For my work, it’s supposed to be kind of a 50/50 endeavor with the frame and the artwork,” Thomas said.

With the photos and frames, these pieces really show the artistic mind of Lance Thomas. Every artist has their own way of doing their art delivery, and the pieces that Signs of Community displayed showed Thomas’ delivery.

People of Whitewater gather at Whitewater’s Art Alliance to view Lance Thomas’ Signs of Community on March 21, 2024. (Katie McIlheran)

“I was really worried when I first started doing this for collective nature. A lot of artists kind of have a general thematic presentation, whereas mine is kind of chaotic and all over the place, but people like it,” Thomas said.

The Whitewater Arts Alliance hosts an exhibit each month, with April being the “2024 Whitewater Unified School District Exhibit.” They also host fundraisers and events for the community to participate in, so be sure to check out their website.

Lance Thomas will also continue to take photos and frame, you can check out his website at lancethomasindustrial.comor his Facebook page, Lance Thomas Industrial Artwork.

Seen here is a sign for Pebe’s Bakery located in Milwaukee, one of Lance Thomas’ Signs of Community artworks featured at Whitewater’s Art Alliance on March 21, 2024. (Katie McIlheran)

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