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Ellen Babcock

Associate Professor, Department of Art, University of New Mexico, Founding Director, Friends of the Orphan Signs.

co-author, The Zeon Files

Ellen is the founding director of Friends of the Orphan Signs (FOS), a 501(c)(3) organization that places collaboratively produced public art on abandoned road signs along the former route 66 in New Mexico. The FOS sign artwork Revivir won an Americans for the Arts, Year in Review, Outstanding Public Art award in 2013. She is the co-author, with Mark C. Childs, of the Zeon Files: Art and Design of Historic Route 66 Signs, which won both a New Mexico State Heritage Publication Award and a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in 2017.

Ellen maintains an interdisciplinary art practice inspired in numerous ways by road signs of the Southwest. The exuberant design and intricate craftsmanship of historic midcentury signs, the ways that signs function as focal points and landmarks for communal memory, and their very public and highly visible presence, even as relics of their former selves, make signs a rich territory for creative exploration. The empty signs of economically stagnant or decaying stretches of urban roadside provide opportunities for artists to experiment with community engagement, unusual signage methods and materials and nuanced content in highly visible public platforms.

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