Electrifying new exhibit opens in Chicago's River North

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Ken Saunders has owned a glass sculpture gallery in West Town for 36 years. Now, he's the director and curator of the newest pop-up museum in River North.

"We are one of the leading galleries in the world for glass sculpture. A few years ago, I started to include a bit of neon. I did a one person show and had really a great response," he said. "My collectors got a kick out of something more jazzy and sexy. The leap from neon to glass sculpture was pretty seamless. It's all about often, mostly about the visuals and visual effects. It's so important to the glass artists and the neon artist."

The neon sign industry was a staple of the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. Now the commercial signage is turning up in more homes and galleries as art.

The Neon and Light Museum, located at 325 West Huron, showcases the work of up to 18 artists in neon, light, and the digital art world. Saunders said it's perfect for the pandemic weary art lover.

"Yeah, people want to get out, but they also want to be safe. These pieces invite you to interact with them. There are so many Instagrammable moments. For that romantic picture that says 'wowy, where were ya for that one?'" he laughed. "We are finding safety in the routine of making a reservation, having a specific time to enter an exhibition. It gives us a sense of safety. We can control our environment that we couldn't before."

Other highlights of the Neon and Light Museum collection include a massive 14-foot-tall neon sculpture by artist John Bannon that changes based on your angle of view. On one side, a woman smelling a rose, and on the other, the face of a man with a mask.

"You can stand on the x and see different perspectives. It's really an amazing piece," Saunder said.

A massive 14-foot-tall neon sculpture by artist John Bannon that changes based on your angle of view at the Neon and Light Museum
A massive 14-foot-tall neon sculpture by artist John Bannon that changes based on your angle of view at the Neon and Light Museum Photo credit WBBM Newsradio/Shannon Blum