San Francisco Neon

historic sign network

Neon Speaks 2019
APRIL 26-28, 
San Francisco


Join the Neon Speaks Mailing List to get updates. The Neon Speaks Festival & Symposium aims to raise awareness and promote information-sharing about historic neon sign artistic legacy and restoration best practices.

The Neon Speaks Festival & Symposium 2018  exceeded  expectations and the community

support for historic neon preservation was inspiring.  Thanks to all the speakers,

sponsors, everyone who attended!

Presented by San Francisco Neon and the Historic Neon Network. Sponsored by the Tenderloin Museum of San Francisco.


The NEON SPEAKS Festival & Symposium aims to raise awareness and promote information-sharing about historic neon sign artistic legacy and restoration best practices. Want to get festival updates? Sign up for our mailing list.

Opening reception & letterland

6:00 PM  Friday, April 20

Location: Herman Miller Showroom
 23 Geary Street, Ninth Floor, San Francisco


We chose this venue because it is a rare opportunity to enjoy an eye-level view of the Palace Hotel neon roof sign and sweeping views of Market Street. 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 letterform artist Kate Widdows will enlighten us with insights on the power of typography via the streamlined forms of neon tubes. Book signings 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."

SF neon walking tour

8:00–9:15 PM  Friday, April 20

Tour Start: Palace Garage, 125 Stevenson Alley,

Spend an evening under the neon glow with photographers/ 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.

2018, try another tour...

Symposium & Spotlight Forum

1:00–4:00 PM  Saturday, April 21

Location: Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy Street, San Francisco 


Join the growing national movement to save historic neon signs. 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.


spotlight Forum (FREE)

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.

"Neon" Feel the glow

5:00 PM  Saturday, April 21

Location: Roxie Theater,
3117 16th Street San Francisco, CA

Watch the trailer and you'll want to see every minute of this engaging documentary on the big screen. Australian film director Lawrence Johnston pulls out all the stops with neon lights, music, and personalities in this non-stop narrative of historic neon signs and people who work to save them from the wrecking ball.

Neon works shop tour

2:00 PM  Sunday, April 22- 2018

3:30 PM Sunday, April 22

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.



The Neon Speaks Festival and Symposium is presented by San Francisco Neon/Historic Neon Network and 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.

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 & Symposium Co-Producers:
Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan
Assistant Producer: Kate Widdows

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

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

All photos © 2014 Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan

All content © 2018 Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan