Affectionate Documentary 'Sign Painters' Showing One Night Only At The Tivoli

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

You see them everywhere. The faded images from countless hand-painted signs adorn the sides of buildings throughout the city, and speak to a rich tradition of sign-painting and the artists who painted them. “St. Louis has a great sign painting history,” says Ben Kiel, St. Louis-based type designer and owner of Typefounding. “There are ghost signs everywhere.” To celebrate the city’s history in typographical arts—and perhaps to mourn its passing—Kiel has brought the documentary film, “Sign Painters,” for a one-night-only showing at the Tivoli on Oct. 10 at 7pm.

Sign Painters from Colossal Media create a hand-painted poster for the movie Sign Painters.

Sign painters from Colossal Media create a hand-painted poster for the movie ‘Sign Painters.’

 

“Sign Painters,” the first anecdotal history of the craft, features stories and photographs of more than two dozen sign painters working in cities throughout the United States. As recently as the 1980s, storefronts, billboards and even street signs were all hand-lettered with brush and paint. But the art would fall victim to technology. Computers could do the design work and die cut vinyl lettering and inkjet printers sounded the death knell. In 2010, filmmakers Faythe Levine and Sam Macon began documenting many of the sign painters who still practice the trade, capturing their time-honored methods and dedication to quality and craftsmanship.

Sign Painter Josh Luke at work.

Sign painter Josh Luke at work.

 

With St. Louis being home to so many great sign painters, sign history and ghost signs, Kiel says that it’s an ideal city to show the film, and its sensitive and intimate look at an often unnoticed and under-appreciated trade will be of interest to more than just design professionals and students. “The film should appeal to anyone who loves a good story told by interesting characters,” Kiel says. “I know of few better story tellers than the sign painters I’ve met.”

Colossal Media creates a hand-painted sign on the side of a building.

Colossal Media creates a hand-painted sign on the side of a building.

 

“Sign Painters” will show at the Tivoli Theater in University City on Thursday, Oct. 10 at 7pm. General admission is $10. For more information visit the film’s website. Tickets may be purchased in advance from the Tivoli Theater ticket page.

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