SCHEDULE

2020

NEON

SPEAKS

ONLINE HOME EDITION! A celebration of neon art, design, and vintage neon signs.

These vibrant creations have evolved from advertising to art and cultural landmarks. Join us at Neon Speaks Festival & Symposium (all events will be virtual this year) and meet neon advocates, artists, and preservationists on Zoom. Neon Speaks is produced by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan of SF Neon in proud partnership with the Tenderloin Museum and the Museum of Neon Art, with grants from SF Heritage and the National Trust of Historic Preservation.

Register for an All-Event Virtual Passport to join any event live and get access to event recordings to watch on your own schedule. Single event tickets available on Eventbrite.

REGISTRATION
Print Schedule

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All Neon Speaks events are virtual, all times are California time zone.

SCHEDULE 2020

First Weekend, September 25-26-27

DAY 1 Friday, September 25, 2020.


Photo: SFLP History Center

INTRO TO NEON:  Beginning to See the Light
12:30—1:45 pm PDT Friday, September 25, 2020
If this is your first time to attend Neon Speaks, this online session is a great way to find out what the hubbub about neon is all about. Neon history will be revealed, and the science of neon explained. Find out more about the rise and fall of neon’s popularity and how cinematographers used neon signs to enhance a spectrum of moods in film. Hosted by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan of SF Neon with Tod Swormstedt of the American Sign Museum, Dydia Delyser and Paul Greenstein, Kate Widdows, and Michael Lipman.  Single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport, sliding scale

Photo: Randall Ann Homan

VIRTUAL TOUR: SF Neon Tender-Nob
5:00 pm-6:15 pm PDT Friday, September 25, 2020
From the gritty to the sublime, zig zag through the historic corridors of this neighborhood situated between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill districts in San Francisco. This historic district is populated with vintage signs that light up the night and create a sense of time travel. This tour is hosted by San Francisco Neon authors and photographers Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan. Tour features historic photos, film clips, and ephemera with architectural and graphic design insights to San Francisco’s unique legacy of surviving neon signs. Register for a  single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport

Photo: Al Barna

OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATION: Preservation Forum
6:30 pm–8:30 pm PDT Friday, September 25, 2020
Join us for a virtual celebration with an all-star line up of speakers at the forefront of vintage neon preservation sharing stories of rescue and restoration. Vintage neon signs have evolved from advertising to art, and now they serve as landmarks of the day-to-day human experience within communities. The artisans and advocates who take on neon preservation projects have adventures and advice to share. Participants include Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, Stephanie Cisneros, Jude and Monica Cook, Tom E. Rinaldi, PAC*San Jose, Corky Scholl, and Debra Jane Seltzer. Register for a single event ticket or All Event Virtual Passport

DAY 2 Saturday, September 26, 2020

Photo: Neil Benson/Neon Museum of Philadelphia

BEHIND THE SCENES: Neon Museum of Philadelphia and Neon Williams, Boston
9:30 am–10:20 am PDT Saturday, September 26, 2020
Vintage neon signs have evolved from advertising to art. Get an insider’s look at the best neon signs in the Williams Neon collection with Dave and Lynn Waller. Len Davidson and the staff at the Neon Museum of Philadelphia are ready to give a sparkling preview of their new museum, especially since COVID-19 has delayed their grand opening. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport

Photo: Dydia DeLyser

NEON CURIOSITY LOUNGE PART 1
10:45 am–1:00 pm PDT Saturday, September 26, 2020
Part art exhibit, part makers fair, part science project. This virtual Neon Curiosity Lounge is a collection of expert sign-makers, tube-bending artists, and neon historians with much to show and tell. Marvel at the strange and wonderful forms of neon light, technique, and insights into neon illumination in all of its forms. Satisfy your neon curiosity! Presenters in the Neon Curiosity Lounge Part 1 include: Bill Concannon, Karen Heisler, Morgan Crook and Danielle James, Amy Palms, Laura Stevenson, Michael Mintz, Anika Rivers, Chris Raley, and Dan Kuppe. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport

Photos: MONA and Nevada Neon Project

BEHIND THE SCENES: Museum of Neon Art (MONA) and Nevada Neon Project
5:00 pm–6:15 pm PDT Saturday, September 26, 2020
Vintage neon signs have evolved from advertising to art, rescued, collected, and displayed proudly in museums. The advocates and educators who champion vintage neon projects share experiences and expertise with a behind-the-scenes perspective. Participants include Eric Lynxwiler and Ani Mnatsakanyan of the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, CA and Will Durham of the Nevada Neon Project in Reno NV. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport.

Photo: Al Barna

VIRTUAL TOUR: Tenderloin Neon+ Matchbooks SF
6:45 pm–8:00 pm PDT Saturday, September 27, 2020
Follow a historic trail via neon and matchbooks on an online journey with hosts Katie Conry from the Tenderloin Museum with Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan of SF Neon. You’ll see stunning visuals of vintage match books and neon signs from the nightclubs, hotels, and late-night greasy spoons that formed the Tenderloin’s mid-century nightscape. Just like matchbooks, historic neon signs are a fascinating synecdoche of the small businesses they represent, and a window to the past explored through material culture. Tour includes iconic businesses remembered vividly through vintage ephemera, video clips, and historic photographs. In partnership with SF History Days. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport.

DAY 3 Sunday, September 27, 2020

Photo: James and Karla Murray

NEW YORK STOREFRONTS 
10:15 am– 10:45 am PDT Sunday, September 27, 2020
When Mom-and-Pop businesses disappear, when vintage signs and storefronts disappear, the character and history of a neighborhood disappear too. James and Karla Murray know this only too well.  For decades, they have been photographing distinctive New York storefronts and have produced three volumes of photography books and a video series. James and Karla share their journey to document these storefronts and signs while forging personal connections with the people who own small legacy businesses in the rapidly changing landscape of New York City. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport.

Photo: Al Barna

LETTERS FROM THE NIGHT SKY
11:00 am–12:30 pm PDT Sunday, September 27, 2020
This session features Letreiro Galeria Projecta from Lisbon, Portugal; followed by a Typographers Forum with Stephen Coles from the Letterform Archive, Kunal Patel from Letters of San Francisco, and Kate Widdows of Electric Letterland. When letterforms are illuminated in a vintage neon sign, the visual allure is irresistible. This forum of typographers will examine some of the most fascinating neon sign survivors and the art of hand-drawn letterforms. The evolution from advertising to art is on full display in these handcrafted beacons of light and imagination. Historic photos and cinematic clips are included to trace the trajectory of neon’s reputation from glamorous to hideous, then from disposable to precious. A typographical feast for the eye, these signs burn bright and beautiful in an alchemical synthesis of glass, gas, and electricity. Register for a Single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport


Photo: Michael Blazek

A NEON FAMILY: Dean Blazek and Michael Blazek
4:15 pm–5:15 pm PDT Sunday, September 27, 2020
Pull up a chair and get to know this neon family who have been at the epicenter of neon art, industry, and education for decades. Neon pioneer Dean Blazek established the renowned six-week training course at the Neon Workshop in Antigo, Wisconsin. Attracting visitors from across the globe, he educated hundreds of students in the secrets of working with neon, glass bending, and the applied arts. Dean published three touchstone books for tube benders: Neon ABCs (Editions 1, 2, and 3). Dean’s son, Michael Blazek, has carried on the family neon tradition. Michael worked at Claude Neon in New Zealand, founded Western Neon in Seattle, and then moved to Australia in  the 1990s to co-found Neon Signs Australia in Brisbane. Dean and Michael, co-authored a book in 1995, Neon: the Next Generation. Join this neon family for their personal histories and the impact of neon arts on their lives. Register for a single ticket or All Event Virtual Passport

Image courtesy of Martin Treu

SIGNS, STREETS, AND STOREFRONTS
5:45 pm–6:15 pm PDT Sunday, September 27, 2020
Storefronts and neon signs have a symbiotic relationship: together, what do they represent, and how do they visually convey it? Take a deep dive into the architectural history of the American streetscape with Martin Treu, award-winning author of Signs, Streets, and Storefronts: A History of Architecture and Graphics Along America’s Commercial Corridors. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport

Photo by Randall Ann Homan

VIRTUAL TOUR: BRILLIANT STOREFRONTS
6:30 pm–8:00 pm PDT Sunday, September 27, 2020
San Francisco’s signs and storefronts represent the intersection of architecture, aesthetics, and advertising. From the radioactive-green cocktail outside Martuni’s piano bar to the crimson glow of a Mission Street drug store, the city has an abundance of hand-crafted neon signs and classic storefronts. Join us for an online tour via photos, footage, and ephemera of San Francisco’s historic and brilliant storefronts. Hosted by Martin Treu, author of Streets, Signs and Storefronts, along with Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan of SF Neon. In partnership with SF History Days. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport

SCHEDULE 2020

Second Weekend, October 3 and 4

DAY 4 Saturday, October 3, 2020

Photo: Dydia DeLyser

NEON CURIOSITY LOUNGE Part 2
9:30 am–11:15 am PDT Saturday, October 3, 2020
Part art exhibit, part makers fair, part science project. This virtual Neon Curiosity Lounge is a collection of expert sign-makers, tube-bending artists, and neon historians with much to show and tell. Marvel at the strange and wonderful forms of neon light, technique, and insights into neon illumination in all of its forms, and satisfy your neon curiosity.  Presenters include: Michael Flechtner, Paul Greenstein and Dydia DeLyser, Shawna Peterson, Roxy Rose Score, Kody Shafer, Tiny Spoon Neon. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport

Photo courtesy Candacy Taylor

HIGHWAY LIFE: Roots of Black Travel in America
11:30 am–12:00 pm PDT Saturday, October 3, 2020
Join award-winning author, photographer, and cultural documentarian Candacy Taylor for an illustrated talk based on her book Overground Railroad: The Green Book and Roots of Black Travel in America. After writing the travel guide Route 66 Road Trip, Candacy Taylor began research for Overground Railroad: The Green Book and Roots of Black Travel in America, the basis of a new Smithsonian traveling exhibition as well as a forthcoming documentary film. She discovered that many Green Book sites had brilliant neon signs, and that some of those signs still exist. The Green Book was an annual travel guide published during the period of Jim Crow law, legalized racial segregation. The guidebook identified businesses that were friendly to African Americans. The Green Book was often a life-saving guide for road-weary Black motorists looking for gas stations, drug stores, hotels, and restaurants that would serve them. Register for a single ticket or All Event Virtual Pass

VIRTUAL TOUR: NEON + GHOST SIGNS SF
5:00 pm–6:15 pm PDT Saturday October 3, 2020
The history and soul of the neighborhood shines through in this online tour of vintage signage found in the Tenderloin. This virtual tour features vintage neon signs and ghost signs, those faded historic hand painted signs on the sides of buildings or on store fronts that advertise a product or business that is long gone. You will see a rich collection of photographs, video clips, maps, and historic research compiled by hosts Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, SF Neon and Kasey Smith, SF Ghost Sign Mapping Project creator and artist. Tour includes histories of unique small businesses that once thrived in the Tenderloin plus the legacy businesses that have survived against considerable odds. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport.


Photo: Steve Spiegel

SIGNS UNITED: Stories from the Road
6:45 pm—8:00 pm PDT Saturday October 3, 2020
Hit the road while you shelter in place and join this talented group in a video presentation of their journeys to document and preserve vintage signs. Signs United presents 20+ video submissions from their global group of artists, photographers, and preservationists who document vintage signs as historic works of art, and also spread the word that these beautiful landmarks are disappearing at a rapid pace. Come along for the ride and get to know the Signs United community created by co-founders Will Hansen, Steve Spiegel, Mike Zack and Marla Zack. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport.

DAY 5 Sunday, October 4, 2020

Photo: Steve Spiegel, Tropicana Club, Havana

NEON IN  HAVANA
10:00 am–11:00 am PDT Sunday October 4, 2020
Mid-century neon brought light, color, and vibrancy to dense metropolitan spaces. Kadir López will join for a Q&A “live from Havana” with Adolfo Nodal of Habana Lights and talk about their journey to restore vintage neon in Cuba. Havana once had 140 neon-lit cinemas on Calle 23, the Cuban equivalent of Broadway. Signs United members Yanis Carreto, Will Hansen, and Steve Spiegel present their photographs from trips to discover existing neon in Havana. Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport.

Photo: Hans J. Orth, 1960 Warsaw

SCREENING: “NEON” Polish documentary
11:15 am–12:30 pm PDT Sunday October 4, 2020
Join us for an online screening of NEON, an award-winning documentary on the neonization of Warsaw and Poland in the Cold War era. Director, Eric Bednarski will join for a Q&A “live from Warsaw”. In this gorgeous film, Bednarski uncovers the remarkable Polish neon and lettering design of the 1960s and 1970s in Warsaw, and asks: Was it possible to truly advertise in a system where shops were frequently empty and brands and services were state-run? What distinguished “socialist” neon advertising from neon advertising on the other side of the Iron Curtain? If you missed this fascinating film last year at Neon Speaks, here is a repeat screening by popular demand! Register for a single ticket or All-Event Virtual Passport.

Photo: Al Barna

VIRTUAL TOUR: CHINATOWN NEON
5:00 pm to 6:00 pm PDT Sunday October 4, 2020
SF Chinatown shines in this online tour about neon signs and how they illuminate the history of Grant Avenue. There is a wealth of vintage neon signs and history in the streets and alleys of Chinatown. This tour features some of the oldest signs in the city. Tour includes the history of neon signs and stories of Chinatown businesses whose signs have became neighborhood landmarks. You will see a rich collection of photographs, video clips, maps, and historic research compiled by hosts Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, SF Neon; and a presentation of the forming of Chinatown by the Chinese Historical Society of America. Register for single ticket or All Event Pass

Photo: Paul Julius

CLOSING NIGHT CELEBRATION FOR PASSPORT HOLDERS
6:30 pm—7:30 pm PDT Sunday October 4, 2020
Bring your favorite beverage, neon questions, and reflections to this festival closing celebration. Presenters and passport holders are encouraged to join as we give a toast to the glow of neon light and reflect on the festival and the future of neon. Register for an All Event Virtual Passport

2020 PARTICIPANTS

SYMPOSIUM PANELISTS/PRESENTERS

Adolfo Nodal, Habana Light Neon Signs, Havana, Cuba
Ani Mnatsakanyan, Museum of Neon Art (MONA), Glendale
Corky Scholl, Save the Signs, Denver
Dave and Lynn Waller, Williams Neon, Boston
Dean Blazek, Neon ABC Alphabet pattern books, Wisconsin and Michael Blazek, Neon, the Next Generation, Brisbane, Australia
Debra Jane Seltzer, RoadsideArchitecture.com, Ventura
Dydia DeLyser & Paul Greenstein, Los Angeles
Eric Bednarski, “NEON” Warsaw, Poland
Eric Lynxwiler, Museum of Neon Art (MONA), Glendale
James and Karla Murray, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, Store Front II: A History Preserved, New York Nights, New York City
Kadir Lopes, Habana Light Neon Signs, Havana, Cuba
Kasey Smith, San Francisco Ghost Signs Mapping Project

Kate Widdows, PDX Neon, Portland
Katie Conry, Tenderloin Museum, San Francisco
Kody Shafer, Neon Spectacular, Osaka, Japan
Kunal Patel, Letters of San Francisco
Letreiro Galeria Projecta, Rita Múrias and Paulo Barata Corrêa, Lisbon, Portugal
Martin Treu, Signs, Streets, and Storefronts, Chicago
Michael Lipman, Why Neon Glows, TED Ed, San Francisco
Len Davidson, Neon Museum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia
Preservation Action Council, San Jose
Signs United, Will Hansen, Steve Spiegel, Los Angeles
Stephen Coles, Letterform Archive, San Francisco
Stephanie Cisneros, SF City Planning Department, San Francisco
Tod Swormstedt, American Sign Museum, Cincinnati
Tom Rinaldi, New York Neon , New York City
Will Durham, Nevada Neon Project, Reno
Yanis Correto, Hopeless Nostalgic New York City

NEON CURIOSITY LOUNGE PANELISTS

Amy Palms, Rebel Neon, San Francisco
Anika Rivers, Town Neon, Oakland
Bill Concannon, Aargon Neon, Crockett CA
Chris Raley, Route 9 Signs, Fresno CA
Dan Kuppe, San Francisco
Danielle James, Raleigh, NC
Karen Heisler, Neon Works, Oakland
Kody Shafer, Neon Spectacular, Osaka, Japan
Laura Stevenson, Rite Guy Design, San Francisco
Michael Flechtner, Flektro, Los Angeles
Michael Mintz, Neon Gods, Portland
Morgan Crook, Ventex, South Carolina
Perry Pfister, Tiny Spoon Neon, Portland
Roxy Rose Score, Los Angeles
Shawna Peterson, SF Bay Area

Photo: Al Barna

Peterson Neon, 2019. Photo: Al Barna</span

STAFF BOX

HOSTS/CO-PRODUCERS
Neon Speaks Festival & Symposium
co-founders and producers:
Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, SF Neon.

WEB DEVELOPMENT
Gary R. Weisberg

ADVISORS
Thanks to our wise advisors: Ariana Bindman, Charles Chapman, Katie Conry, Heather David, Dydia DeLyser, Allen Sawyer, Jim Van Buskirk, and Kate Widdows