Ten Years of Sparkle
Dulcinea Rongavilla knew of The Neon Museum before it was The Neon Museum. “You had to have an invitation or make a reservation to visit, and it was completely different than what it is today,” she explains. In its early days, Dulcinea was courted for a board seat. “[The board at the time] told me about all the wonderful plans for the Museum, and the next thing you know I joined the board, which was ten years ago.”
The longest-serving board member of the Museum, Dulcinea believes in being a model for other trustees and members in the greater Las Vegas community. Over the years, her family has given countless donations, including two Electric Promenade pavers. In 2017, she dedicated a paver with five heart symbols to her son. “Those five hearts represent my husband, myself, my son, and our two dogs,” she says. The second paver was in honor of her parents’ 45th wedding anniversary and their fond memories of their stay at the Barbary Coast Hotel and Casino in 1979. The sign in the collection is from the property, which was open 1979-2007, until it became Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall 2007-2013, and finally the site of what is today The Cromwell.
Having been a trustee for more than a decade, Dulcinea was witness to many Museum milestones. “We went from just the main Boneyard,” she explains, “to expand to the North Gallery, and then we added the Hard Rock sign, which was a very momentous occasion.” The 82-foot tall Hard Rock Café guitar, on loan from YESCO Sign Company, was saved through successful crowdfunding and is the most prominent sign on the Museum campus. Dulcinea remembers the commemoration ceremony well and recalls the classical musicians that performed, and how her then two-year-old son reacted to them. “From the sparkle of the lights to the music of the electric violinists, it was a super cool opportunity for everyone to enjoy. I remember him gazing at the lights and watching them play and realizing – This is a place for all ages.”
Through The Neon Museum Governance Committee, Dulcinea was able to get others involved with the Museum as well. “My nonprofit mantra is ‘time, talent, treasure’ and volunteering on the board gave me the opportunity to really raise my hand and participate in the growth, planning, and strategy of this phenomenal institution.” She adds, “From a donation standpoint, or ‘treasure,’ contributions are so vital to a nonprofit organization. As board members, who are another face of the organization beside the executive director, prospective donors look to us when they are considering matching or increasing their gifts.”
Although she finished her third term on the board, Dulcinea remains involved and closely connected to the Museum. “I am still a raving fan!” she says. Looking ahead at the next ten or twenty years, she is confident of the Museum’s continued success and trusts in the “passionate and dedicated staff” to push the institution forward.
Her favorite sign in the collection is the Silver Slipper, installed in the median on Las Vegas Boulevard North, across from the historic La Concha Motel lobby. “There’s just something about a sparkly heel that just makes me smile,” she says. “It’s the history—and the fact that is has been preserved for all to see.” The restored Silver Slipper sign is part of the public art collection, which runs along Las Vegas Boulevard from Washington Avenue to Charleston Boulevard, in the Las Vegas Signs Project, in partnership with the City of Las Vegas.
Although, “preservation” is the first word that comes to mind when Dulcinea thinks of the Museum, she sees STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) as where the Museum is headed. “Preserving signs is in the mission, yet at the same time creating learning opportunities for kids is really exciting.” She is delighted about partnership development with school field trips and the Museum’s STEAM Saturdays program. She says her son is finally of the age where he can participate in events for children and families.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are,” says Dulcinea, “you can really enjoy The Neon Museum and walk out of here feeling vibrant because of the sparkle.”