MARC GARMAN - EDITOR
A Sign of the Times for the Arts &
By Paula McConnell
At the July 30th “Arts & Entertainment District” meeting held in Vallejo City Hall, it was mentioned that for the past three years certain downtown associations have been struggling with putting “Way signs” in place at strategic downtown locations. These signs would delineate where certain places are located, for example the museum, the library, etc. Members of the Central Core Restoration Committee (CCRC) managed to create a very artsy, attractive sign with colors that ‘pop’ to get a viewer’s attention. The sign has a somewhat historic look, and would be very suitable for downtown. However, the Vallejo city planning department rejected the style and colors of the initial sign. Fast forward to the third year in the attempt to get these signs completed and mounted. The new sign is a black and white block lettered sign which, as someone at the meeting table suggested, looks like a “tombstone”. That is when Buck Kamphausen jumped in. Buck took both signs away, and said “I’ll go back to the group, and we’ll come to a final decision on a sign design.” Incidentally, a Napa sign company was originally hired to produce the sample signs. Kamphausen, along with many others in attendance, agreed that the second “tombstone” sign must not be used. They further agreed that a Vallejo sign company should be hired as opposed to taking the money out of town. “We just need to get signs up so that people know where buildings are located,” said Mad Hatter parade originator Frank Malifrando. “It is amazing how many people do not know that we even have a library or museum downtown,” he said. Indeed, three years is too long to develop and mount directional and informational signs. Hopefully, with Kamphausen’s and Malifrando’s dynamic and forward thinking personalities, downtown signs will happen and this debacle will end soon. Perhaps before too many of us find ourselves in need of Mr. Kamphausen's services.
Things are moving forward on the window arts project for the seventeen windows selected for downtown. Artists still have time to get their concepts and art proposals in for selection. As mentioned before, artist Erin Bakke single handedly managed to obtain building owners’ permission to secure the downtown windows for the upcoming displays. Bakke has an art studio at the Coal Shed studios on Mare Island. The object of the window art is to bring some life to downtown by bringing more visual energy to the landscape. Other cities have been successful by using this tactic. Indeed, downtown Napa has been in the process of a renaissance for several years and has done similar things to accomplish this. This project has been spear headed by the Arts & Entertainment District with blessings from the city of Vallejo, and is also being made possible by the Vallejo Community Arts Foundation. “VCAF” is conducting the art selection and window installation process. The art will remain in windows for one year unless the building is leased in the meantime.
There is no city funding for the window arts project, and the artists will need to donate their time, art and other materials. The art curator will be artist Marc Martin who, along with Bakke, will produce his own window display. According to Economic Development Analyst Annette Taylor, a similar project was done over a decade ago. “But the thing that we have to do now is to keep the momentum,” said Frank Malifrando. “We need to do everything we can to bring attention to our historic downtown. When people come to the Mad Hatter Parade, they often tell me that they had difficulty even finding downtown because there are no signs, and little action,” he said. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have a huge over the street ‘Historic Downtown’ sign as they do in the downtown area of Vacaville?)
Meanwhile, the downtown tree lighting project is underway. Downtown property owner John Sylvain climbed a ladder and put lights in two trees in front of Indian Alley Antiques on Georgia Street. “One tree has larger lights, and the other the smaller lights. We might ask people to cast a vote at Indian Alley Antiques as to which size they prefer,” Sylvain said. “There will be no voting as far as I am concerned,” Indian Alley Antiques owner Fred Menard said. “We will use the larger lights, they look better and that is all there is to it,” he continued. (Menard is the person most responsible for raising the monies for the tree lighting project). Menard said that he has raised enough money to light thirty trees. Acting Planning Director Michelle Hightower assures the downtowners that the city public works department will be handling the placing of the lights, and that the city will also pick up the tab for the permanent lighting electricity. “This is all well and good,” said Fred Menard. “But the city of Vallejo needs to get on the ball and enforce the ordinance in place to fine property owners who refuse to make any attempt to rent their downtown buildings,” he said.
If anyone is interested in proposing a window arts project, they may contact Marc Martin at , or check the website at for more information. The deadline to submit art for this project will be Friday, August 10. However, there may be some flexibility on the deadline timing depending upon the proposed project and whether or not the artist can prove the capability of installation by early October. So if interested, submit your artistic concept now. “We absolutely have to have the trees lit, the directional signs up and the art in the windows before the Mad Hatter parade on December 1st,” said Frank Malifrando. “People need to see that we have life in historic downtown,” he said.