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Tenderloin Neon A-Z: Discussion & Film Screening

Join us on August 9th as we announce our new initiative, Tenderloin Neon A-Z, a collaboration between the Tenderloin Museum, SF Neon, and San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) to restore neon signs in the Tenderloin neighborhood. This association is a continues and expands upon the valuable work being done by SF Shines, part of OEWD’s Invest In Neighborhoods Initiative. To celebrate this newly minted alliance between the city’s most dedicated neon preservationists, the Tenderloin Museum is hosting an evening to reflect on neon’s rich legacy in the neighborhood as well as its current and future prospects.


The Tenderloin neighborhood was once ablaze with neon. We’ll visit this time in history with a screening of selections from two documentaries, Gay San Francisco (1965-1970) & Drugs in the Tenderloin (1966), with the latter being introduced by director Robert Zagone. Both of these rare documentaries are shot in the Tenderloin between 1965-1970 and both were rediscovered and restored by the Tenderloin Museum. Both films showcase the beauty and abundance of Tenderloin neon as well as provide vital inspiration and resources for restoration. For additional historical context, we will screen portions of  Lawrence Johnston’s 2015 documentary, Neon, a survey of the glowing light-source’s 100+ year history.


After the film presentation, SF Neon founders Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan will discuss their comprehensive survey of the Tenderloin neighborhood and how they considered the aesthetic, business activity, and historical importance of each sign. Darcy Bender from OEWD will explain the origin of SF Shines, discuss the scope of the new Tenderloin Neon A-Z initiative, and share insight into which signs are being prioritized for restoration and why. This evening is not to be missed for neon enthusiasts--come learn about and discuss best practices for creating sustainable neon that will light up our neighborhood for decades to come!

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About SF Shines:

In an effort to improve San Francisco’s business corridors, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s Invest In Neighborhoods initiative provides grants, design assistance and project management through the SF Shines program to improve storefront façades and business interiors. Since 2009, the program has awarded over 100 storefront improvement grants to small businesses and non-profits, including nine to restore neon signs.


About SF Neon:

San Francisco Neon advocates for preserving historic neon signs with tours, talks, exhibits, consultations, and events. Our sister organization, Historic Neon Network, is a not-for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Tenderloin Museum. Our goal is to educate and advocate for the artistic legacy of historic neon signs: a living archive of design, craft, and city history. Founders Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan are the authors and photographers of the book San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons.

Earlier Event: August 2
Neon+Fire: The Art of Tube Bending
Later Event: August 16
Acting UP: GIRLFLY Visuals