neon speaks

festival & Symposium

A Look back at

Neon Speaks 2018

Festival & Symposium

The attendance in 2018 exceeded  expectations and the community¬†support for historic neon preservation was inspiring. But we are curious, did we meet your expectations? Tell us what you loved or didn't love, this will help us apply for grants so we can do the good things even better next time. \Thanks to all the speakers, sponsors, everyone who attended! Presented by San Francisco Neon. Funded by San Francisco Heritage and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Sponsored by the Tenderloin Museum of San Francisco.

Debra Jane Seltzer signing books with onlookers Roger HIll, Belinda Hill, and Eric Lynxwiler at Neon Speaks 2018.

Opening reception & Letterland

6:00 PM  Friday, April 20, 2018  

Location: Herman Miller Showroom, 23 Geary Street, Suite 900, San Francisco

Gaze into the neon glow and enjoy happy hour beverages and light fare amid classic mid-century furniture. Typography guru Shelley Gruendler, sign painter Damon Styer, and letter form artist Kate Widdows will enlighten us with insights on the power of typography via streamlined neon tubes. Book signing by Heather David for her new book of mid-century ephemera, Motel California, classic motel neon! Debra Jane Seltzer will also be signing "Vintage Signs of America." This venue is a rare opportunity to enjoy an eye-level view of the Palace Hotel neon roof sign and sweeping views of Market Street.

SF neon walking tour

8:00 PM  Friday, April 20, 2018         Book a walking tour on another weekend!

Tour Start: Palace Garage, 125 Stevenson Alley, San Francisco

Spend an evening under the neon glow with SF Neon authors Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan. SF Neon tours feature local history, architectural, and graphic design insights into San Francisco's surviving neon signs. Photography and a lively Q&A are encouraged. Space is limited.


Saturday, April 21,  2018
1:00 PM  Neon Symposium

3:00 PM Neon Spotlight Forum

Location: Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy Street, San Francisco


Help us make history and join what might be the first-ever symposium about neon!. Eric Lynxwiler demystifies the criteria on what makes a neon sign museum-worthy for the Museum of Neon Art. Hit the virtual road with Debra Jane Seltzer, a legendary historian who travels coast to coast to document America's neon beauties and the survivors of roadside architecture in a disappearing landscape. Corky Scholl is out there making it happen, saving the historic neon signs in Denver's Colfax district. Ever wonder what it takes to restore a vintage neon sign? Tod Swormstedt of the American Sign Museum shows us how it's done, step-by-step. Followed by a panel discussion on neon preservation best practices, moderated by John Law.


Stick around for a spotlight forum on the impact and future of neon in San Francisco and beyond. Eleven speakers will each shine a 3-min spotlight on their projects to show how neon is a vital light in their neighborhood landscapes.  Q&A to follow. Hosted by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan.


5:00 PM  Saturday, April 21,  2018
Location: Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th Street San Francisco, CA

Check out the trailer and you'll want to see every minute of this engaging documentary on the big screen. Written and directed by award-winning Australian filmmaker Lawrence Johnston, NEON celebrates the beauty, color and vibrant history of these beloved illuminated signs that are disappearing. The craft and construction of this 100-year-old medium is an amazing and enduring force of color and beauty in the visual landscapes of our lives. Neon lovers, designers, and architects: don't miss this one. Q&A to follow.


Still from "NEON" documentary film

Neon works shop tour & DEMO

2:00 PM  Sunday, April 22,  2018

3:30 PM  Sunday, April 22,  2018

Location: Neon Works, 967 Grace Ave, Oakland, CA

Jim Rizzo of Neon Works in Oakland has been rescuing and restoring Bay Area neon signs for decades and he only opens his shop for tours once in a blue moon. This is your chance to see his vintage neon collection and experience how neon, glass, and fire combine to make glowing art. Jim is a master sign-maker and he's letting us into his 17,000-square-foot workshop to explore the art and craft of neon signs. You'll learn about the anatomy of neon signs, how they are made, and how they've changed over time. Local neon historians Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan will give a brief talk about the history of neon signs and the growing movement to save them. Space is limited, the 2pm tour sold out in a flash. We have added a 3:30 pm tour, don't miss out!



The San Francisco Neon/Historic Sign Network produces neon walking tours, events, talks,  exhibitions, and the Neon Speaks Festival and Symposium, fiscally sponsored by the Tenderloin Museum of San Francisco. The San Francisco Heritage generously provided a grant from the Alice Ross Carey Preservation Fund. A matching grant was generously provided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

 The symposium and shop tour are sponsored by the Art Deco Society of California in memory of Michael Crowe. The festival is sponsored by Anika Chasuk, Jason LaBarbera, Stephanie Poteet, Ira and Carol Serkes, and by Charles Chapman and Annette Smith. The opening reception and Letterland event are sponsored by Adobe TypeKit.

San Francisco Neon:
Survivors and Lost Icons

Cloth hardcover third printing with 220+color photographs.  Includes extended neon notes section and updated neighborhood index with sign condition for all surviving signs. The fabulous Verdi Club is on the cover, one of the best neon signs in San Francisco.


$33 + tax


Quick shipping in Continental  US, limit 2 per order. Contact us for larger or international orders.

Festival photo credits: Al Barna, Randall Ann Homan, and Kate Widdows, except where noted.

Order souvenir T-shirts while they last....


We are grateful to our sponsors, and to the supporters who encouraged us to create a venue for  champions to share challenges and success in preserving historic neon signs. Others have shown their support by donating and  promoting Neon Speaks events on social media and other channels. Interested in becoming a sponsor or supporter? Let's talk!



Neon Speaks Festival and Symposium co-producers:  Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan. Assistant Producer: Kate Widdows

Advisors: Katie Conry, Therese Poletti, Allen Sawyer, and  Jim Van Buskirk