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Here's your 'Sign' to get out for First Friday

For this First Friday of 2022, the Bakersfield Art Association is offering two exhibitions celebrating our community in different ways. 

In his series "Everywhere a Sign," photographer Michael Todd Thorpe aims to capture the iconic signage of Bakersfield.

"It's a look at some of the iconic signs that make Bakersfield Bakersfield," he said. "Lots of things have disappeared over the years and I've tried to capture them."

Some signs include Far East Cafe, Pioneer Mercantile, Amestoy's, Sinaloa and Sparkle cleaners. Many are no longer in their previous home; in the case of Amestoy's and Sinaloa, the buildings are also completely gone.

"If somebody doesn't grab them (signs) and put them in Pioneer Village (at the Kern County Museum) then they're gone forever. There's so much of old Bakersfield that disappears and it happens really quickly," he said, noting the demolition of the Sinaloa building on 20th Street.

"As they were starting to strip the old bank building on Chester, it was a case of 'look at what's underneath all of this.' It's a good thing that it didn't get torn down." (The building is now home to The 18hundred restaurant.)

"Bakersfield is not really good about protecting its history. That's why those opportunities come up for people like me to take those photos."

Thorpe, who has called Bakersfield home since 1965, said the photos keep his memories alive like enjoying the best orange duck and turquoise blue booths "right out of a 1940 movie" at Far East Cafe when it was on 18th Street.

"These are memories of old Bakersfield as well as lives lived. They (the signs) show their age the way people do. When they're gone, the story is gone."

The photographer encourages people to explore the signage and architecture in downtown and other older areas of town (as opposed to the the "cookie cutter" design of many newer areas).

"Be aware of what we have before it’s gone. ... And support your local artists, photographers, painters and musicians."

Thorpe's series is on display now at Dagny's Coffee Co., 1600 20th St.

The BAA is also hosting a group show at its Art Center based on the theme of agriculture.

Subjects range from orchards and wheat fields to barns and farmers markets. Locales include California and France

Participating artists are Tom Wright, Mimi Placencia, Iva Fendrick, Laura Valenzuela, Norma Eaton, Charlotte White, Robert Ross and Cheri Sperl.

An artists' reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the center, 1607 19th St.

Another BAA satellite show on display downtown is Norma Neil's work at Tina Marie's Downtown Cafe. restaurant through the months of January through March.

Through her watercolors, Neil's trees, whether the main subject or a supporting character, have their own story to tell in each painting, according to the BAA newsletter.

Neil's nature-inspired paintings will be on display through March at Tina Marie's, 1534 19th St.

Other First Friday fun

Moderngigi Gallery (900 18th St.) will be open with live music and art from 5 to 10 p.m. Head to for more information on the gallery.

Students can get creative at The Selfie Studio (1610 19th St.), which is offering a discount to its photo-ready space with over 40 backdrops and interactive murals. Students only pay $10 (must show ID) for use of the space.

The Bakersfield Museum of Art (1930 R St.) continues with its much-praised exhibition "On the Edge: Los Angeles Art, 1970s-1990s, from the Joan and Jack Quinn Family Collection," which features more than 150 objects from nearly 70 artists. Admission is free for First Friday with operating hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit

Enjoy live music at 2nd Phase Brewing (1004 19th St.) courtesy of The Appletons. Oh, Boy! Po'boy! food truck will also sell sandwiches.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.