New Life for Old Signs

SPARC members Lissa Reynolds and Bianca Richards with some of the old South Pasadena street signs now available for sale. Photo Courtesy of SPARC

An ongoing city project in South Pasadena is the replacement of street signs, leaving many wondering what happens to the signs after they are taken down.

Here’s the answer: Instead of being thrown away, the signs get the chance to find new homes through Pathways to Art — a joint project between the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC) and South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF) to benefit local arts education and creative projects.

“One of the City Council members informed me that they would be getting rid of old street signs and wanted to know if SPARC had any use for them,” said Lissa Reynolds, founding director of SPARC.

“When I found out that SPEF was also interested in them, we decided to do this together. It worked out perfectly because we support any kind of emphasis on art in the schools and community. It’s been a great collaboration, and we can’t wait to do other projects together.”

The signs make great decorations in gardens and backyards. Photo Courtesy of SPEF

Through the collaboration, retired street signs are sold to raise money to advance the arts within the community. The city’s sign replacement is part of a multi-year process, with signs continually being put up for sale online. After a sign is purchased, the city drops it off at SPARC’s storage facility, where it is cleaned before being taken to the SPEF office. From there, the buyer can pick up his or her street sign and take it home.

“South Pasadena is built on tradition, and people love to own a piece of that nostalgia,” said Stacey Peterson, executive director of SPEF. “We’ve had people buy signs because it is theirs or their child’s name. The majority either live on or have lived on that block.”

More than 300 street signs have been sold to date, with many ending up in people’s gardens or homes. Reynolds and her husband James, who have owned the Fremont Centre Theatre for 25 years, displayed the Fremont Avenue sign they purchased in the theatre’s courtyard.

“People are excited for the opportunity to have a piece of the city they love,” said Reynolds. “They know that the price of owning that small piece goes to enhance the arts in the schools and our community.”

The signs are $100 each and can be purchased by visiting SPARC’s or SPEF’s websites. Some of the street signs that are currently available include Huntington Drive, Lyndon Street and Monterey Road, among others. New signs will continue to become available as the list is updated.

“One thing that has been great for SPEF has been the partnership with SPARC,” said Peterson. “It gives us the opportunity to bridge the art cycle from the school setting into the community as a whole, portraying how important art is to everyone—no matter their age.”

As for the leftover signs that don’t get purchased? There’s already a plan in store for them.

“We can’t wait to do an art project with the extra signs,” said Reynolds. “We have a lot of ideas, and we want to infuse this city with creativity and pepper it with public art.”

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