This past Wednesday, April 13, was the screening of the film “Sign Painters” in the Bethel Cinema, 269 Greenwood Avenue, Bethel, CT. This was a one-night showing and an event to help raise funds for the Bethel Arts outdoor sculpture project. The film was fabulous and is especially of interest to “artsy souls,” or anyone who was ever in a related art field, who can identify with what these artists in the film discussed, and it will definitely cause a chuckle or two, but the appeal is widespread nonetheless.
Report by Paula Antolini
April 16, 2016 2:21PM EDT
“Sign Painters” CT Premiere FilmFest52/Bethel Event Helped to Raise More Funds for Bethel Arts Project
This past Wednesday, April 13, was the screening of the film “Sign Painters” in the Bethel Cinema, 269 Greenwood Avenue, Bethel, CT. This was a one-night showing and an event to help raise funds for the Bethel Arts outdoor sculpture project.
The film was fabulous and is especially of interest to “artsy souls,” or anyone who was ever in a related art field, who can identify with what these artists in the film discussed, and it will definitely cause a chuckle or two, but the appeal is widespread nonetheless. If you missed the premiere screening in Connecticut you definitely should watch a screening at another location or online: CLICK HERE.
“Sign Painters,” directed by Faythe Levine & Sam Macon. Stories are told by artists from across the country including Ira Coyne, Bob Dewhurst, Keith Knecht, Norma Jeane Maloney and Stephen Powers. Film brought to Bethel by Tom Carruthers.
The film immediately made you feel nostalgic for days gone by when many items were still being hand made. Signs range from simply being painted on paper or cardboard with a few brush strokes, where the technique of the brush, type of brush and type of paint used, is of utmost importance, to paintings on the sides or interiors of buildings several stories high. Larger exterior painted signs required the logistics of how to get all the painter’s equipment to the location, which sometimes meant supplies were hoisted via pulleys and manual labor. The texture of the surfaces could be rough and bumpy which required extra skill and time to get the sign to look professional.
Sadly technology crept in, and this film clearly makes a statement about what is lost because of mass production. Most of the artists interviewed in the film said plastic mass produced signs quickly replaced hand-made artwork and sign painting companies became rare, though there is still a rare breed still painting signs today. They describe the aging process of signs, in how the hand painted work fades and becomes more beautiful, but the plastic signs droop and just become ugly.
You do get a glimpse of many artists’ studios, some of them rather quirky, as was the one in a van, where the artist proudly displayed a sign that said “deposits required,” claiming artists sometimes have to chase their money.
Painting techniques, styles of typefaces, and most importantly the difference between “lettering” and “type,” was pointed out in the film by one artist, the former being a one-of-a-kind specially designed artwork, the latter is type meant to be used enmasse.
The film showed a variety of beautiful signs in all sorts of settings and styles. It made you want to jump into the screen and experience that world of beautiful signs again, that were common and numerous at the time, but when we see one now we swoon. Well the “artsy souls” swoon anyway.
Attendees enjoyed VIP greenroom reception and had a chance to bid on artwork at a silent auction, followed by a screening of “Sign Painters.” Following was a premiere after party, and Q&A with sign painters from our region.
After the film, sign painters from local towns, who have been in the business for decades, lined up in front of the theater for a question and answer period. John Kutzman stated he’d been painting signs since 1959, only to be reminded by local artist/sculptor Frank Kara, that his family has been in the business since 1952.
The evening featured:
6:00pm – VIP Green Room Reception In Theater #1
6:00pm – 7:05pm Silent Auction
7:15pm Screening Of “Sign Painters” Connecticut Theatrical Premiere
Q&A with Sign Painters From Our Region And A Meet ‘n’ Greet After Party.
The event raised over $500 towards the Bethel outdoor sculpture project being planned by Bethel Arts.
VIEW A FILM CLIP OF “SIGN PAINTERS” here, and view more photos below:
The film, directed by Faythe Levine & Sam Macon, was shown in Bethel by Tom Carruthers, who is part of the FilmFest52/Bethel Series at Bethel Cinema, where a movie is screened each Wednesday 52 weeks a year.
Carruthers describes “Sign Painters” this way:
“We see them almost every day without a second thought. Weathered by time, distinct characteristics shining through, hand-painted signs are a product of a fascinating 150 year-old American history. What was once a common job has now become a highly specialized trade, a unique craft struggling with technological advances.
“Sign Painters,” directed by Faythe Levine & Sam Macon, stylistically explores this unacknowledged art form through anecdotal accounts from artists across the country including Ira Coyne, Bob Dewhurst, Keith Knecht, Norma Jeane Maloney and Stephen Powers. These vanguards of unseen originality are leading a renaissance with a keen creative purpose and exemplify the working class American success story. Sign Painters celebrates those keeping the tradition intact with a bespoke approach and appreciation for a balance between art and commerce.
“Faythe Levine works as a independent researcher, artist, photographer, filmmaker and curator. Her work focuses on themes of community, creativity, awareness, process, empowerment and documentation. Levine’s first film and book, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design was published by Princeton Architectural Press. She is currently working on her third book about a pioneer show-woman, Mimi Garneau.
“Sign Painters was one of the most successfully screened art films in 2014 with over 80 exclusive events across the globe. The film found incredible support from prominent art organizations, museums and community programs interested in furthering the craft of sign painting, promoting local artists, fundraising, or simply setting up a film night for their community.
“Here is a selection of top art organizations who screened
• AIGA: hosted over 20 screenings to date in Oklahoma, Boston, Detroit, Chattanooga, Kansas City, South Dakota, Tampa Bay and Colorado. Also affiliate chapters from Austin to Arizona, and Nashville to Nebraska, screened the film.
• SEGD: the Industrial Designers at the SEGD showed global support in Toronto, Vancouver, Wellington (NZ) Cincinnati, Kansas City, Washington D.C. and Atlanta.
• GDC: the Canadian design community also championed the film, arranging intimate events in Vancouver, Regina, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
“SIGN PAINTERS, WHICH HAS BEEN PUT TOGETHER WITH EQUAL PARTS AFFECTION AND SKILL BY DIRECTORS FAYTHE LEVINE AND SAM MACON, IS FRESH AND PASSIONATE AND UNEXPECTED.”
– Mark Feeney, Boston Globe
“A CAUTIONARY TALE ABOUT THE HEAD-LONG RUSH INTO A TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN TIME AND A MEDITATION ON WHAT’S LOST ALONG THE WAY. IT IS A REMINDER TO LOOK AROUND AND RECOGNIZE THE PHYSICAL HISTORY IN OUR PRESENCE EVERY DAY.”
– Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel