Small Craft Big Screen: Sign Painters


In Detroit, as elsewhere, unique and wonderful hand painted signs are slowly fading from the landscape, replaced by the bland efficiency of die-cut vinyl lettering. In the 2013 documentary film Sign Painters, we meet the brave and stubborn artists who are fighting that trend. If  you know Small Craft, you know that’s our kind of story. So we’ve selected Sign Painters as the next entry in our Big Screen film series. On Saturday, June 14, we’ll gather in the Trumbullplex Theater to view this celebration of traditional craftsmanship and individual expression.


In the film, sign painting is described as “an invisible art,” and certainly, few of us have stopped to consider the hands behind the letters. But the people depicted in this movie are of an immediately familiar type. (“Every artist is a character,” is how one sign painter sums it up.) It’s fascinating to visit the world of sign painting, but the themes we find there reverberate far beyond its borders. This film has something to say to anyone who is trying to lead a unique life in an increasingly homogenous culture.

 Photo: Cassie Staub

Photo: Cassie Staub

We discovered  Sign Painters via co-director Faythe Levine, whose previous film, Handmade Nation, was last year’s Big Screen selection. We had seen Handmade Nation a few times before screening it at the Trumbullplex, and the story it told – the rise of the indie craft movement – was one we had lived through ourselves. Yet sitting in that darkened room, with the Small Craft community around us, we were able to see it all with fresh eyes.

Sign Painters becomes available for home viewing today, but it will be more in keeping with the spirit of the film to watch it in the traditional manner. So leave your computer, and join your friends in a historic art space. We’ll have snacks, cartoons, and all the other extras that make a day at the movies special. We’ll use a projection booth that was built by a neighborhood poet, and covered with hand painted murals by a passing traveller. And we’ll share a unique moment that can never be streamed or downloaded.

Small Craft Big Screen
Sign Painters
Saturday, June 14
2:00 pm
$5 suggested donation
Trumbullplex Theater
4210 Trumbull

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