GRANT #447:


We Love Neon, Neologisms, and Art That Starts A Conversation

Three cheers for the red, white, and blue, and all things Americana. What’s “Americana”? Wikipedia says it’s anything that’s considered “characteristic of the United States or of the American people” and representative or even stereotypical of American culture as a whole. OK then, what is Americaña? It’s a new word. All words were new once, of course. (The old word for a new word is “neologism”.) Carissa Marie Samaniego created this new word to suggest “a Hispano/Latina/o/x influence in our understanding of what contributes to Americana, including traditions, knowledge, politics, history, geography, artifacts, and ephemera.”

It’s timely, and it’s time. The multi-racial population of America in the 21st century demands a redefinition of the (white-centered) culture.

The nation’s culture becomes more inclusive as all-white gatekeepers become rarer. Some signifiers of Americana were born inclusive, like neon signage and art.

Artists have used neon and words to convey messages for about a hundred years. Carissa plans to put her message of inclusivity in neon. She’ll use this Awesome Without Borders grant money to create a large, flashing sculpture that subtly alternates between “Americaña” and “Americana”.  You can see what it’s going to look like here. (Clever, yes?)

She plans to take the sculpture on the road, exhibiting in street-facing gallery windows in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. (Covid-19 safe!)

Just thinking about this grant has made us more sensitive to what’s considered uniquely American, and whose contributions are credited. A lot of cultural influencers could use a neon sign of their own!