Thanks to all the speakers, sponsors, everyone who attended this first annual Neon Speaks Festival & Symposium! Many thanks for the grants awarded by San Francisco Heritage Alice Ross Carey Preservation Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Matching Grant Fund. Thanks also to our generous sponsors: Art Deco Society of California, Adobe Type Kit, Mission Pie, BiRite Market, Neon Works, and the Tenderloin Museum.

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



6:00 PM Friday, April 20, 2018
Location: Herman Miller Showroom, 23 Geary Street, Suite 900, San Francisco CA
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.

Photo: Al Barna

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.

Photo: Al Barna

Saturday, April 21, 2018
1:00 PM Neon Symposium     3:00 PM Neon Spotlight Forum
Location: Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy Street, San Francisco CA
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.

Still from “NEON” documentary film

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.

Photo: Al Barna

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!


San Francisco Neon 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.

Here at Neon Speaks, 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!