Museum Monday: The Pencil Sharpener Museum

The Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio is open again, and the 5,000 sharpeners in the collection are now housed in a new building at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center.

This is the world’s only Pencil Sharpener Museum and it includes 4000 pencil sharpeners collected by the late Rev. Paul Johnson, plus a new addition of 1000 pencil sharpeners donated by the family of antiques collector Frank Parades, who discovered pencil sharpeners dating back to the 1800s.

Here are some of our favorite images of pencil sharpers from the collection, but we’re sure sharp-eyed visitors will discover their own.

Snaps from the National Neon Sign Museum

On a recent road trip through Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, the Stuck at the Airport museum reporter came upon the National Neon Sign Museum in the charming town of The Dalles, Oregon.

Unfortunately, the museum was closed the day were were in town. Fortunately, museum director David Benko answered the phone when we called and agreed to open the museum for a special tour.

Benko is a longtime neon sign collector, a neon expert, and a skilled neon sign designer who has amassed more than 300 neon signs as well as a vast collection of artifacts related to the invention of neon and its evolution as an advertising tool.

He’s turned the Elks Temple in The Dalles into a neon sign shrine, with a movie theater for showing films about neon; an exhibit devoted to Georges Claude, the French engineer who invented neon tubing; rooms filled with brightly lit neon advertising signs; and an event space designed to look like a small town Main Street in the era when every shop had a neon sign.

This one’s a winner and a great reason to plan a trip to The Dalles, Oregon.

Cool places & events to add to your ‘go’ list

Kentucky’s new GLASS National Art Museum

The Stuck at the Airport art team is based in Seattle, which is home to world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, the Chihuly Garden and Glass attraction, the Refact Glass Festival, and a bubbling glass art community. Down the road, in Tacoma, WA, there’s an entire Museum of Glass.

But we’re putting the newly opened GLASS National Art Museum, in Danville, Kentucky on our ‘go’ list. The just-opened museum is built around the collection of Stephen Rolfe Powell, an artist known as a hot glass master of color who died in 2019. He was highly regarded in the international glass world and his glass sculptures are in the collections of major art museums. He was also a professor at Danville, Kentucky’s Centre College for more than 35 years, where he founded a glass program.

The Art Center of the Bluegrass, a multipurpose space in Danville, acquired Powell’s collection and is displaying it along with works by other prominent glass artists. 

Find the Glass National National Art Museum at 408 West Main Street, Danville, KY. Hours: Tuesday – Friday 10:30 am – 6:30 pm. Admission: free.

(Photos courtesy GLASS National Art Museum).

Circus dinner theater: Teatro Zinzanni at Lotte Hotel Seattle

(Elena Gatilova in Teatro ZinZanni Residency at Lotte Hotel Seattle. Photo by Nate Watters)

Love, Chaos & Dinner. And maybe an overnight stay.

If you live in or near Seattle or are looking for a reason to head that way this holiday season or sometime before the end of March 2024, the rollicking theatrical cirque experience that is Teatro Zinzanni is a must-do.

The sumptuous dinner show is wacky and, at times, a wee bit racy. And there’s a stellar cast that leans into some tried and true vaudeville traditions while offering a steady stream of impressive and often heart-stopping acrobatics and funny stuff performed on and above the stage and, sometimes, in the audience.

There’s a storyline to the evening, but with all the singing, the shtick, and the ‘how can they do that?! feats on the trapeze and elsewhere – that won’t matter.

This is Teatro Zinzanni’s 25 anniversary and over the years the company’s giant cabaret tent has been in residence in several locations in and around Seattle.

This season, Teatro Zinzanni is in residence in the Grand Ballroom of the Sanctuary at Lotte Hotel Seattle so there’s no room for the entire tent.

But the mirrored walls, the wooden booths, the in-the-round seating, and the elevated live orchestra Teatro Zinzanni fans have come to expect are all here. And it’s clear that the Sanctuary, formerly the oldest church in downtown Seattle, is a perfect venue thanks to lots of stained glass, a 58-foot-high domed ceiling, and plenty of history.

Sleepover after the show

Lotte Hotel Seattle is one of the newer, high-end hotels in Seattle and an overnight here is a great pairing with an evening at Teatro Zinzanni.

Designed by industrial French designer Phillipe Starck, the hotel has 189 rooms, a spa, plenty of meeting space, great views over the city, the waterfront, and Elliott Bay, plus a cocktail lounge and restaurant on the top floor with a very reasonably priced Happy Hour.

The guestrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, large mirrors, fun art, spacious bathrooms clad in travertine stone, and a cozy decor that takes inspiration from Pacific Northwest forests.

We spotted a lot of fun wood (real and referenced) throughout the hotel, from the front desk made out of a log from a 3,000-year-old Sequoia tree to the ‘wood’ carpeting in the hallways and in the rooms.

They’ve even got a discount package for anyone attending a Teatro Zinzanni show.

Museum Monday at LAX and SFO airports

Say “Hi, Barbie!” at Flight Path Museum at LAX

A visit to the Flight Path Museum and Learning Center at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is an avgeek delight anytime.

Located on LAX property, a short drive or taxi ride from the terminals, the museum includes one of the largest airline uniform collections, as well as space exploration memorabilia, a great research library, and a wide range of commercial aviation artifacts.

Right now is an especially good time to visit because the museum has Barbiemania. In honor of the new Barbie movie, the museum is showing an exhibit of aviation-themed Barbies and Barbie accessories, including Barbie dolls inspired by famous aviators, including Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart.

Unconventional enamels at SFO Airport

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) oversees twenty-five sites throughout the airport terminals. So if you’ve got a long walk to your gate or a long layover at SFO, it’s a good bet something will catch your eye.

One of the newest exhibitions at SFO features the unconventional enameled art of June Schwarcz (1918–2015) on view in the Harvey Milk Terminal 1, Departures Level 2, Galley 1 E now through early May 2024.

Here’s an intro to Schwarcz’s work from the SFO Museum;

Inspired by nature and fashion, as well as abstract, African, and Asian art, Schwarcz developed unique metalworking techniques, always experimenting and embracing complex technical challenges. She initially worked with copper panels and spun-copper bowls, infusing them with her own interpretation of traditional enameling. During the 1960s, Schwarcz pioneered electroforming, an innovative method that involved electroplating pieces made from thin copper foil. Schwarcz focused on sculptural vessels and when asked about her abstract forms, she explained, “They simply don’t hold water.” 

(Images of June Schwarcz’s artwork courtesy of SFO Museum and the collection of Forrest L. Merrill)

Astronaut Barbie at the National Air & Space Museum

The upcoming release of the ‘Barbie’ movie directed by Greta Gerwig is prompting nostalgia for everything Barbie.

The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum is riding that wave, and celebrating Barbie’s long career as an astronaut.

1965 Astronaut Barbie

This Miss Astronaut outfit for Barbie was released in 1965 and included a silvery spacesuit with brown boots.

1985 Astronaut Barbie

This 1985 Astronaut Barbie has two outfits, including this pink miniskirt with silver leggings and knee-high pink boots.

1994 Astronaut Barbie

The 1994 Barbie (above) was issued to mark the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

The Air & Space Museum doesn’t have a complete set of space-themed Barbies (yet), but a recent museum blog entry notes that between 2000 and 2020, seven space-themed Barbie dolls were released including a 2013 Barbie that went to Mars in a white spacesuit with pink details.

(Courtesy Mattel)

Sally Ride, the first American woman, and the youngest American to fly in space, was honored with an Inspiring Women Series Barbie in 2019. (Nothing pink here…)

These Barbies Went to Space

 In 2022, these two Barbies had the honor of being the first Barbies to actually go to space.

They spent several months on the International Space Station but had to leave their accessories on the ground.

Those two Barbies are the newest addition to the Smithsonian’s collection and are currently on display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, along with the 1965 Miss Astronaut, the 1985 Astronaut Barbie, and the 1994 Moon Landing Barbie.

(All images courtesy Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, except as noted from Mattel)