Feb 05, 2013

Columbia Neon Visits Pryor Art Gallery

Exhibit Features Signs from Maury, Lawrence, Williamson, Marshall, and Lincoln Counties

A variety of outdoor signs designed by Columbia Neon, a Columbia business since 1934, will be featured in Columbia State Community College's Pryor Gallery during October. The signs will be on display from Monday, October 5 through Thursday, October 29. The exhibit features signs from Maury, Lawrence, Williamson, Marshall and Lincoln counties with dates ranging from as far back as 1934 to the present.

"The caveat for this show is that Columbia Neon Company has and does serve the same counties that Columbia State has and does serve. Viewing this exhibit will be a walk through history for everyone in our area, as well as a nice lesson in a particular business's evolution," said Lucy Kuykendall, curator and director of Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State.

Charles Stofel, general manager at Columbia Neon, is displaying a portion of his collection of hand produced sign designs, as well as some of the original vintage signs. The exhibit also includes the original drafting tools and a desk that belonged to Edward Lewis, the former custom sign designer for Columbia Neon. "Exhibit-goers are invited to sit on Mr. Lewis' stool at his drafting table and try their hand at sign design," said Kuykendall.

"The desk has been at Columbia Neon for 49 years," said Stofel. "All of the sketches that you see were drawn on that drawing table."

Items in the exhibit are displayed chronologically so that visitors can walk through time with the Whitaker, Rivers, Parham, and Stofel families, and others employed by Columbia Neon through the years.

The Columbia Neon exhibit tells the story of a business that began in Columbia and expanded, providing jobs and services around Tennessee. The business has shifted into the 21st century with computer drafting that draws from the experience of hand-produced signs.

"Surviving all these years is an accomplishment in itself," said Stofel, while discussing the changes the company has endured. "We're very proud of our employees." Columbia Neon currently operates with 23 employees.

The exhibit will be on display from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Pryor Art Gallery is located in the Waymon L. Hickman building on Columbia State's Columbia Campus at 1665 Hampshire Pike.

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee's first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the sixth largest higher education system in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.

Below: (left to right) The General Manager of Columbia Neon, Charles Stofel is pictured with Columbia Neon Employees Gary Osborne and Jackie Berryhill. The electronic Columbia Neon sign is part of the Columbia Neon exhibit at Columbia State Community College's Pryor Gallery.