Robert Blackson is the director of exhibitions at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, so when he began to notice the plethora of fading, unique advertisements painted on the sides of local businesses on his way to work his creative juices started flowing. He wanted to start a campaign to restore these works of art that have deep historical roots in Philadelphia. Years ago, before billboards and lighted business signs, many Philly establishments had large, mural type business signs hand-painted right onto the sides of their building.
As time went on many of the businesses faded along with the signs that promoted them. Now known as “ghost signs” many of these pieces still remain at least somewhat intact around the city, along with some of very places they helped garner attention for. The one that got Blackson’s attention was an old locksmith ad on the corner of 13th street and Girard Avenue, according to The Philadelphia Tribune.
“It had a beautiful sign that had just been worn away over the decades,” Blackson said. “So many of these signs, when you see them, you immediately assume that the business is long dead and probably closed up years ago, and this is just what?s just left over.”
That wasn’t the case this time though. So one day he stopped at Henssler Locksmith Company and spoke with the owner and fifth-generation locksmith, John Henssler. They talked about the possibility of restoring the giant sign outside which Henssler had wanted to do, but didn’t have the extra $3,000 required to put into it.
?So it got me to thinking, I work at an art school, and we have no shortage of artists here,? Blackson said. ?But what we don?t have is scaffolding.?
And with that the “Vital Signs” project was born. Temple Contemporary joined forces with the Mural Arts Program in an effort to restore these types of unique advertising murals of still-open, family-run businesses to their former glory. The goal is to directly help the local businesses these ads represent, while also bringing pride back to Philadelphia’s historic small business tradition and neighborhoods in general.
Savvy entrepreneurs and marketers know business signage importance in today’s day and age. For example, digital business signs are rapidly becoming popular as studies suggest locations with them average 30% more sales and 40% more shoppers than those with traditional business signage designs. Overall, many potential customers (35%) won’t know where your businesses location is if you don’t have a sign displayed.