arts and culturefeatured-art-and-cultureIssue 10

Modesto Design District: Revitalizing the Community Through Design

Here’s a little-known fact: there are more than 70 design-related businesses and restaurants tucked in just a few blocks of downtown Modesto between 10th Street and 16th from I Street to K.


But if Bob Barzan gets his way, this fact will soon be known much more widely. Barzan, who’s the Executive Director of the Modesto Art Museum, is responsible for spearheading a project that has declared this section of Modesto’s downtown the “Design District.” In Barzan’s words, “The city is our collection and the neighborhood is our gallery.”


The Design District initiative is made possible due to a generous grant from ArtPlace America. Based in Chicago, the nonprofit’s mission is to work to revitalize neighborhoods through the arts. Modesto was chosen for the grant from a nationwide competition that drew over 1,200 applications and included a rigorous screening process for the top-100 cities. The edge that Modesto had over other applicants is the city’s strong history of design, according to Barzan. As early as 1902 Modestans were designing automobiles—even predating the designs that came out of Detroit—and hundreds of patents came out of that era. Modesto was once called a “design hotbed.” The goal now Is to reclaim that lost heritage.


To mark the creation of the Design District, the McHenry Museum will hold the Modesto Design Exhibit, a retrospective on design in Modesto from the 1870’s through the present. The event will highlight five local creative voices who work in a variety of disciplines, including everything from interior and furniture designers to tattoo artists, graphic designers and a custom automotive designer.


Legends of Design

Any list of pioneers in tattooing would be incomplete without Modesto resident Charlie Cartwright. Owner of End of the Trail Tattoo on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, a new film Tattoo Nation, highlights Cartwright’s enduring contributions to the craft. A reception and screening of the film will be held at the State Theater on Saturday, May 10.


The exhibit will also feature Modesto-born Michael Taylor, widely considered one of the most important interior designers of the twentieth century, as well as locals Craig Leavitt and Stephen Weaver, the creative minds behind LeavittWeaver. Based in the Central Valley LeavittWeaver are internationally known furniture and interior designers.


Type designer Jim Parkinson will represent graphic design in the exhibit. Among the many typefaces he developed, Parkinson created the namesake Modesto family of fonts.


Rounding out the exhibit is Gene Winfield, renowned custom car designer, a leading force in the graffiti culture. A resident of the area for several decades, Winfield began designing his widely-recognized custom cars in 1946 before going on to become an internationally famous innovator in the field.


For more information on the exhibit, go to or stop by one of these events this month:


Modesto Design Exhibit

April 29 to May 30, 2014

Daily, noon to 4 PM, except Mondays


McHenry Museum

1402 I Street, Modesto

Admission is free


Modesto Design Week

May 10-17, 2014

10th to 16th and I to K Streets


Design Week Kick Off

Saturday, May 10, 10:30 AM

Gift bag distribution at various shops


Guided Architecture Walking Tour

Saturday, May 10, 11:00 AM

Meet at 10th Street and J Street


Tattoo Nation Reception and Screening

Saturday, May 10, 6:00 PM

State Theater

1307 J St, Modesto

Tickets $8

For more information go to

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