Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives 3.0: Corky Scholl

If it's neon, Corky Scholl will shoot it, including the Rabbit Ears Motel sign in Steamboat Springs.
If it's neon, Corky Scholl will shoot it, including the Rabbit Ears Motel sign in Steamboat Springs. Corky Scholl
#30: Corky Scholl

A visual storyteller as a television-news photojournalist, Corky Scholl further spreads his enthusiasm for the authentic, human side of life as the keeper of Save the Signs, a Facebook page and a movement dedicated to documenting disappearing urban neon signage in Denver and across the nation. Scholl's fascination for the history and preservation of neon transcends mere avocation, yielding photographs of existing examples and the beginnings of a private collection of exemplary signs that have outlived their usefulness. You can see some of his Save the Signs handiwork and collection this weekend at Artopia 2017, Westword's annual art party, coming to City Hall on Saturday, February 25. But first, get to know him via the 100CC questionnaire.

click to enlarge Corky Scholl strikes a pose against the old Oak Alley Inn sign on South Pearl Street. - COURTESY OF CORKY SCHOLL
Corky Scholl strikes a pose against the old Oak Alley Inn sign on South Pearl Street.
Courtesy of Corky Scholl
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

I would join Jack Kerouac to photograph his journeys during the late 1940s, when he was traveling across the country for what would become his novel On the Road. It's interesting to read about the places in the book, especially all the Denver references, but it would be amazing to see photographs, as well. I spend a lot of time photographing vanishing Americana, so it would be great to document these roadside attractions and icons before they were in danger of disappearing.
click to enlarge The Riviera Motel on Colfax, with  a vivid backdrop. - CORKY SCHOLL
The Riviera Motel on Colfax, with a vivid backdrop.
Corky Scholl
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?


Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post. His portrayal in the film Spotlight helped restore many peoples' faith in the fourth estate. The concept of a free press plays an important role in democracy and is as important now as it ever was.
click to enlarge The Oasis Restaurant, Raton, New Mexico. - CORKY SCHOLL
The Oasis Restaurant, Raton, New Mexico.
Corky Scholl
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Municipalities that form arts districts for the sole purpose of spurring gentrification. I think it's great when cities genuinely want to support the arts. Unfortunately, I fear ulterior motives are involved in at least some of the cases.
click to enlarge The Bluebird Theater in the snow. - CORKY SCHOLL
The Bluebird Theater in the snow.
Corky Scholl
What's your day job?

I'm a photojournalist at 9News. It's a great job that allows me to capture powerful moments and document history.
click to enlarge Space Station Gas, Steamboat Springs. - CORKY SCHOLL
Space Station Gas, Steamboat Springs.
Corky Scholl
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

First of all, I would build affordable housing. I would fund programs to help the homeless get back on their feet.

Next, I would buy and restore some of the historic properties in this city that would otherwise be in danger of being demolished. I would also restore and relight all of the existing neon signs along streets like Colfax and Broadway.

Finally, I'd buy some nice camera equipment and pursue my dream of documentary filmmaking.
click to enlarge CORKY SCHOLL
Corky Scholl
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

I love Denver. I think it's a great city. There is a DIY spirit that seems to thrive here. I moved here from Minneapolis thirteen years ago. The Twin Cities are also great, but the superior weather here has kept me from wanting to go back.
click to enlarge Restored signage at the Stanley Marketplace. - CORKY SCHOLL
Restored signage at the Stanley Marketplace.
Corky Scholl
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Increase funding for the arts in public schools.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Local musician and creator of ColfaxAvenue.com, Jonny Barber. Aside from being a great musician, he's a living encyclopedia of Colfax history. His posts on ColfaxAvenue.com often offer a glimpse of what Denver's most notorious street looked like during its mid-century neon heyday.
click to enlarge Esquire Theatre, Denver. - CORKY SCHOLL
Esquire Theatre, Denver.
Corky Scholl
What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I'd like to make progress in creating a display of historic neon signs. I currently have six large neon signs that I've saved or acquired, and I think the best place for them would be in a setting where they can be enjoyed by the public. I've been talking with the folks at Stanley Marketplace about displaying them there. If that doesn't work out, my preference would be to find them a home somewhere along Colfax Avenue, which was once Denver's premier corridor of neon signs.
click to enlarge The Lion's Lair at dusk. - CORKY SCHOLL
The Lion's Lair at dusk.
Corky Scholl
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

I hope the mid-century neon signs in this city like Pete's Kitchen, the Satire Lounge and Eddie Bohn's Pig'n Whistle Motel get noticed and appreciated more. And I hope that the unnamed artists who created them also get some recognition. I think it's great that both during her lifetime and after her death, Betty Willis was recognized as the artist who designed the Moulin Rouge and Welcome to Las Vegas signs. That's the way it should be. Well-done signs are works of art, and their artists should be recognized.

Visit Save the Signs on Facebook. For tickets to Artopia, go to westwordartopia.com.
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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd