neon speaks

festival & Symposium

A Look back at

Neon Speaks 2019

Festival & Symposium

Thanks to everyone who joined us for Neon Speaks 2019, a weekend of neon talks, demos, case studies, restoration tips, shop tours, walking tours, book signings, films, and action items for creating a future where vintage neon survives and thrives. The Neon Curiosity Lounge made its debut this year and created quite a buzz with 10 fascinating exhibits and the Mapes Hotel cowboys as the main attraction, courtesy of the Nevada Neon Project. Thanks to the hosts of four great venues: the Tenderloin Museum, the Verdi Club, the Great American Music Hall, and Neon Works.

Neon Speaks is an annual project of

NEON SPEAKS 2019 Symposium speakers and attendees at the Great American Music Hall, SF


Photo: Dydia DeLyser

Photo: Al Barna

Photo: Will Durham

Photo: Peterson Neon

Images: Letterform Archive

Photo: Al Barna





Neon Curiosity Lounge, Tenderloin Museum, SF

1–4 PM  Friday April 26 2019    
Part art exhibit, part science fair. Drop in to see amazing neon artifacts, old signs, and working models presented by a roomful of neon experts. Satisfy your neon curiosity! Bonus: Will Durham will be displaying Reno's famous neon "M" of the Mapes Hotel cowboys, plus other neon signs the he has preserved via the Nevada Neon Project.  Have your photo taken with the Mapes cowboys!


Letterform Archive Tour, SF

4:30-6pm  Friday April 26,2019  SOLD OUT
with Kate Widdows and Letterform Archive Guides

A special curated tour of the Letterform Archive's stacks for anyone fascinated by the history of lettering and signage. Book early, space is limited. San Francisco.


Opening Reception and Symposium, Verdi Club, SF

6:00–9:30 PM Friday April 26 2019

Join us for food, cocktails, and neon at the historic Verdi Club in San Francisco. This evening's speakers are Corky Scholl/Save the Signs Denver, Eric Lynxwiler/MONA Glendale, John Law/Sign Man Oakland, and Tracey Sprague/Neon Museum Las Vegas. Followed by a screening of "NEON", a documentary film on Polish Cold War neon by Eric Bednarski.


Saturday Symposium, Great American Music Hall, SF

10 AM–3:30 PM Saturday April 27 sold out

This will be a day-long informal and spirited event with presentations and panel discussions, complete with breakfast, lunch, and dessert included in the ticket price. A rare gathering of champions who are on the front line of the neon preservation movement.


The Art of Neon, OAKLAND

Noon-4pm Sunday April 28, 2019  SOLD OUT

Peterson Neon, Oakland with Shawna Peterson.

What does it take to create a work of art fabricated from neon-filled glass tubes? Watch it happen with neon artist/tube-bender deluxe, Shawna Peterson plus special guests. An ongoing afternoon event with timed tickets for an hour-long demo. With guest artist Laura Stevenson.


Neon Works Shop Tour/Demo, OAKLAND

Sunday, April 28, 2019  1 PM and 2 PM Tours. SOLD OUT

With Jim Rizzo and Amy Palms—back by popular demand. If you missed this shop tour last year, here is your second chance! 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. This tour sold out last year.


Alameda Neon Walking Tour, Alameda

 Sunday April 28 2019 .   7 PM and 7:15 PM Tours. SOLD OUT

Take a twilight walking tour of the beautiful neon signs in the historic city of Alameda. From the grandeur of the Alameda Theater neon blade sign to the nearly invisible Pop Inn, downtown Alameda boasts a fine collection of vintage neon. This tour winds through a quiet bungalow neighborhood and the  commercial corridors of Alameda. Space is limited. With Devi L. Dahl, Eric Lynxwiler, Al Barna, and Randall Ann Homan.

Photo: Devi L. Dahl


Tod Swormstedt, American Sign Museum, Cincinnati OH

Eric Lynxwiler, Museum of Neon Art, Glendale CA


Neon curiosity Lounge

Al Barna, San Francisco Neon, San Francisco CA

Bill Concannon, Aargon Neon, Crockett, CA

Heather David, San Jose Signs Project, San Jose, CA

Dydia DeLyser & Paul Greenstein, Los Angeles, CA

Will Durham, Nevada Neon Project, Reno, NV

Greg King and Shawna Peterson, Oakland, CA

Roxy Rose Score, Los Angeles, CA

Bruce Suba, Suba Neon, Santa Cruz, CA

Tod Swormstedt, American Sign Museum, Cincinnati OH


SYMPOSIUM Presenters

Jude & Monica Cook, Ignite Sign Museum, Tucson, AZ

Heather David, San Jose Signs Project, San Jose, CA

Will Durham, Nevada Neon Project, Reno, NV

Dydia DeLyser & Paul Greenstein, Los Angeles, CA

Tom Rinaldi, New York Neon  book, New York, NY

John Law, Central Services, San Francisco, CA

Debra Jane Seltzer,

Tracey Sprague, The Neon Museum, Las Vegas, NV

Kate Widdows, Electric Letterland, Portland OR


SPotlight Speakers

Susan Bregman, New England Neon, Boston, MA

Derek McDonald, Golden West Signs Arts, Reno, NV

Corky Scholl, Save the Signs, Denver, CO

Steve Spiegel and Will Hansen, Signs United



Neon Speaks Festival and Symposium co-founders/producers: 
Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, SF Neon.
Co-Producer: Kate Widdows, PDX Neon



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


The San Francisco Neon/Historic Sign Network produces the Neon Speaks Festival and Symposium, fiscally sponsored by the Tenderloin Museum. Grants were generously provided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and San Francisco Heritage  from the Alice Ross Carey Preservation Fund in 2019.



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  promoting Neon Speaks events on social media and other channels. Interested in becoming a sponsor or supporter? Let's talk!