In celebration of the 21st Annual Twilight Dance Series in Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation is holding its third annual poster contest. The winning design will be used on posters, flyers, banners and advertisements for the dance series.

The contest is open to amateur and professional designers and students. The graphic design entries are due Friday, April 1st, with contest rules, entry forms and design guidelines available at www.santamonicapier.org in the “What’s Happening” link.

The winner will receive $750 and a VIP package for the summer series, including backstage passes, according to Rachel Hoover, Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation marketing manager.

Members of the community can vote for their favorite design via an Internet poll during April. The top vote-getter will be announced at the Santa Monica Festival on Saturday, May 14th, at Clover Park, 2600 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica.

Twilight Dance Series free concerts take place once a week on the Santa Monica Pier, June through September for ten weeks each summer. The series has featured such acts as Sha Na Na, Tito Puente and the Jefferson Starship. The series began as a way to bring people back to the pier after severe storms in 1981 and 1983 destroyed part of the pier, according to Hoover. Rebuilding of the pier was under way and the free dance series was designed to let the community know the pier was still active.

The first year featured the jazz orchestra The Rhythm Kings and was set up under a blue tent that seated 250 people. After a few years, the series outgrew the tent. Now the largest and most successful free festival-style concert in Southern California, it takes up the whole pier parking lot and attracts between 7,000-12,000 guests per show, according to Hoover.

Wanting to extend community involvement with the dance series, the Pier Restoration Corporation decided to invite the community to design the poster for the series. “It’s an opportunity for artists to say what the Twilight Dance Series means to them,” Hoover says. “We’ve gotten interesting interpretations of what the event means to people. A recurring theme was the pier at night and dancing. Jazz and rock were well represented.”

About 30 or 40 entries were received the first year from designers and college students, according to Hoover. Last year, 30 entries came from design students at Santa Monica High School, and about 12 entries came from professional and amateur designers.

A jury of art professionals and art enthusiasts, including members of the Santa Monica Arts Commission, judged the entries the first year, according to Hoover.

Last year’s winner, Carrie Carmody, is a freelance graphic designer. She’d been designing for two years and her winning entry, “Hitchcock,” was inspired by her love of vintage movie posters.

Now a full-time designer with The Disney Store she says, “It was an opportunity to show my own style instead of a client’s.” The design became a part of her portfolio and it was often a conversation piece that drew compliments for her and publicity for the event.

Winning the contest also gave Carmody more confidence.

“It was cool to be acknowledged and to see that random, objective observers liked my work without knowing anything about me,” she says.

Carmody says that the final design was not left solely in her hands, though.

“Evite and other sponsors had their own ideas of how they wanted the design to look, so we had to run it by the sponsors and negotiate. It was a good experience in learning how to work with clients,” she says.

Carmody says that she was happy to be a part of such a high-profile local event. “I love Santa Monica so I consider it my contribution to Santa Monica, a way of giving back to the city.”

Information, (310) 458-8901.

Julie Kirst can be reached at juliekirst@yahoo.com

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