History Lesson

Plastics and acrylics prove to be a proper substrate to pay homage.
SRS Signs (Winnipeg, MB, Canada) produced a new marquee for the iconic Burton Cummings Theatre.

Sign projects often honor someone or something, and while researching this story, I was reminded just how (quite literally) far and wide quality tribute signage work is being completed across the US and Canada. The versatile domain of rigid substrates – specifically, plastics and acrylics – provides signmakers with a litany of fabrication options. (Chris and Kathi Morrison’s deep dive into the different types of plastics and acrylics – see ST, April 2017, page 24 – is highly recommended.) As you explore sign companies’ work honoring a city entertainment institution, a town’s lovely landscape and a culture’s past, we hope you find inspiration to experiment with jobs that push your own capabilities.


SRS Signs (Winnipeg, MB, Canada) produced a new marquee for the iconic Burton Cummings Theatre.
SRS Signs (Winnipeg, MB, Canada) produced a new marquee for the iconic Burton Cummings Theatre.

A renowned theater that stands on 364 Smith St. in the southeastern portion of Winnipeg, Manitoba (in central Canada) has undergone a few name changes since its opening night in February 1907, when it debuted as the Walker Theatre. Renamed Odeon Cinema in 1945, in 2002, it was rebranded as the Burton Cummings Theatre in honor of the Winnipeg-bred former lead singer of The Guess Who. True North Sports and Entertainment acquired full ownership of the venue in 2016, and approached SRS Signs & Service – located a little less than three miles from the theater – about producing a new marquee sign for “The Burt.”

“We worked with [True North’s] architect, and we were able to spin a happy compromise of design and function,” said Derrick Amy, SRS’ director of operations. “We were also able to use all the existing steel from the original sign.” SRS secured 3/16-in. white Acrylite acrylic to the aluminum face using stud welds and silicone, then router-cut and silconed 1/8-in.-thick Acrylite for the letter faces aligned flush with the 1/8-in.-thick aluminum used for the signface. This technique presents the sign as one solid piece during daylight, but permits LED illumination of the letters at night, contrasting the white acrylic letters and dark opaque face.

A white LED border encompasses the sign’s main piece – meant to loosely resemble the shape of Manitoba –with separate green LED borders at the top (around “Burton”) and bottom of the sign (around “Theatre” and the logo). Installation of the 7.6 x 31.9-ft.-tall sign took place overnight to avoid major traffic conflicts, polishing off the project in three months. 

Amy, who remembers the first show (Blue Rodeo) he attended at the theater, had a photo of Burton Cummings pointing at the new sign printed and signed by the project’s participants. “Burton Cummings Theatre is a Winnipeg icon,” he said. “It’s something you tell your family and friends about. It was super cool just to be on the project.”


Exposé Signs & Graphics and Ft. Hill Sign Products (Hopedale, MA) fashioned interior and exterior signage for a Duxbury, MA apartment community.
Exposé Signs & Graphics and Ft. Hill Sign Products (Hopedale, MA) fashioned interior and exterior signage for a Duxbury, MA apartment community.

When Beacon Communities, a Boston-area real estate firm, needed signage furnished throughout Island Creek Village, its new apartment community in Duxbury, MA, Beacon knew it could rely on familiar partners: Exposé Signs & Graphics and Ft. Hill Sign Products of Hopedale, MA. Husband-and-wife team Andy and Amy Clark own both outfits. Exposé and Ft. Hill share a roof but are run independently of each other, with Exposé the commercial shop and Ft. Hill the wholesale supplier.

Beacon Communities’ design wing generated the initial sketch, a three-pronged leaf motif – one leaf for the townhomes, another for the high-rises and a final edition for the garden-style apartments – that would be omnipresent throughout Island Creek on exterior wayfinding and interior signage. The leaf signifies the outdoor splendor of Duxbury, a historic seaside town 35 miles south of Boston. (Duxbury, now an arts-conscious Cape Cod community, was an American Revolution hotbed, with residents once hanging and burning effigies of British officials to protest the Stamp Act.)

The project was then handed off to Exposé, which designed the desk wraps, plus the ADA, hanging and illuminated signage. Ft. Hill was contracted to cut all ADA and interior signs. Chemetal’s Khaleesi was used throughout the project, and the wide spectrum of signage necessitated four brands of acrylic: Arkema (for P95), Astari (clear cast), Plaskolite (P99) and Rowmark (all ADA lettering and some ADA backers). The metal-faced products were routed and the acrylic elements were cut on a Kern laser. The raster braille for the ADA signage was completed by a Vision engraver. “Ft. Hill’s cutting capacity and attention to detail really enabled us to focus on the management portion of the project and not have to worry about some of the most intricate fabrication procedures,” Andy Clark said.

The completion of the entire Island Creek construction project was marked by a ribbon cutting that included Massachusetts Congressperson Bill Keating, Undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development Chrystal Kornegay, as well as other state and local officials. “It’s always terrific when you get a project that encompasses such a range of products and applications,” said Amanda Yates, project manager at Ft. Hill. “Seeing the finished projects installed really creates a sense of pride in our company.”


Creative Signs & Graphics (Honolulu) fabricated restaurant signage for a local resort.
Creative Signs & Graphics (Honolulu) fabricated restaurant signage for a local resort.

Christopher Shelton picked up all sorts of tricks of the sign trade – graphic design, router operation, laser engraving, working the flatbed printer, painting, installing – by growing up in his family’s sign business, which was founded as Creative Signs & Graphics (Honolulu) by his father in 1977. During and after college, Shelton even trained to be the shop’s neon glass bender. “I was around it as a kid and enjoyed making things with my hands and seeing the end product. I liked telling family members, ‘Look, I made this.’” said Shelton, now the vice president of Creative.

Creative’s operations are typically confined to the Hawaiian Islands, where they recently fabricated the majority of the signs for the Westin Nanea, a resort on the western coast of Maui. Of particular note were two identical entry signs Creative fabricated and installed that featured push-through acrylic letters for Mauka Makai, a restaurant in the Westin Nanea whose moniker honors Hawaii’s fishing and farming culture. (In Hawaiian, mauka means “mountains” or “toward the mountains,” while makai means “toward or by the sea.”)

Creative used A&C Plastics Inc.’s Plexiglas MC acrylic sheet for the job, acquiring it via Min Plastics & Supply (Honolulu). Shelton said the original job called for flat cutout letters made from acrylic or Corian. The letters were slated to be painted to match the Pantone colors and pin mounted on the wall, but the contractors failed to provide exterior lighting for the sign. Due to the resort and the restaurant’s firm construction schedules, Creative modified the sign rather than open up a wall or a part of the building that was already finished.

Shelton and his team digitally printed on 3M translucent vinyl to match four Pantone hues, and added an ORACAL overlaminate. White Sintra PVC was used on the sign’s rear. Matthews Paint, GE LED modules and a France power supply rounded out Creative’s materials list. “Because the sign had to be internally illuminated and they still wanted dimensional letters, the easiest solution was to make an internally illuminated cabinet sign with push through letters,” Shelton said. “And rather than fabricating a box or rectangle for the cabinet, we created an outside contour of the letters as part of the new design. So in the end, we were able to provide our client with an illuminated sign with dimensional letters – which is what they wanted.” 

When patrons stroll into the Westin Nanea’s Mauka Makai, perhaps they contemplate a bit of Hawaiian culture in addition to their forthcoming meal choice.


Signs of the Times July 2019

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