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Vanishing Seattle’s art exhibit highlights signs from the past

Followers of the Instagram account sent in their own contributions

A large sign for Rainier Beer below a sign for Java Jahn Espresso

Iconic signs mingle with more local niche displays at Vanishing Seattle’s exhibit

Photo via Vanishing Seattle

Calling all vintage neon fans. Media project Vanishing Seattle is opening an art exhibit this Friday, July 28 where it will display 75+ signs from past and present local small businesses.

The free show in Pioneer Square’s RailSpur building will use the signage and memorabilia from places that are either long closed or have a great deal of history to show how the city has evolved over time. Some date back more than a century, so excuse their dust.

Gone, but not forgotten

Lifelong local Cynthia Brothers started Vanishing Seattle when one of her favorite Beacon Hill restaurants — Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine — closed in 2016. The project grew into an influential Instagram account with 75,000+ followers, several short films, and continued advocacy work.

This year, nonprofit Forest for the Trees approached Cynthia about creating the RailSpur exhibit as a satellite Art Fair event. Vanishing Seattle then sent out a call to its followers to donate memorabilia for the show.

A sign that shows Promenade Red Apple and lists various items like seafood and fresh meat, with boxes of fruit beneath it

Promenade Red Apple was a Central District staple for decades before closing in 2017.

Photo via Vanishing Seattle

Found treasures

Cynthia says the response was overwhelming. She’s received everything from hand-painted signs sent in by family members of the original artists to old wood carvings. Artifacts in the exhibit include signage from the legendary Four Seas Restaurant and the “Almost Live!” show.

There’s also an A-Frame from the still-open Sloop Tavern and a whole section on Seattle’s gay bar history. “It’s a mashup of the beauty and craftsmanship of the signs with the importance of the businesses that had them,” says Cynthia.

Head to the RailSpur building on Friday from noon to 8 p.m. to check out the Vanishing Seattle show. There will be an opening reception at 5 p.m. with a live DJ — and other artsy events in the building all weekend long.