Nobel Laureates will appear Friday on Telegraph Avenue, on dozens of new street banners
BERKELEY – Telegraph Avenue, with its many bookstores and cafés, has long been a gathering spot for artists and intellectuals, many of them affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley.
This Friday, 18 of the campus's most famous scholars will join the mix on Telegraph – on dozens of handsome new street banners honoring Nobel laureates from UC Berkeley. The project, jointly produced by the avenue's merchants and the campus, remedies a problem brought to light by Andy Ross, owner of Cody's Books and president of the Telegraph Area Business Improvement District.
Flying banners to promote pride of place has become common in recent years, Ross said, but Telegraph's old banners had become stale, advertising the street as just a marketplace for pizza slices and records, not a center for ideas.
On Friday at 9 a.m., UC Berkeley, businesspeople and city officials will celebrate the project's completion in front of Cody's Books at 2454 Telegraph Avenue, where workers will unfurl the final banner using a cherry picker crane. Invited guests include all eight living Nobel laureates from UC Berkeley, and two of the Nobelists – George Akerlof and Daniel McFadden – are scheduled to attend.
Remarks will be given by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl;
Ross of Cody's; and Roland Peterson, executive director of the
business improvement district.
The banners will be hung just in time for Cal Day, the campus's annual open house, which draws some 30,000 visitors each year and will be held on Saturday, April 12.
Sixty-six banners will adorn not only six blocks of Telegraph Avenue, but Bancroft Way between Bowditch Street and Dana Street and one block of Durant Avenue as well. Visitors will get to know Nobelists ranging from Ernest Lawrence, who earned the prize in 1939 for cyclotron physics, to George Akerlof, who shared the 2001 prize in economics.
Altogether, 18 UC Berkeley professors and researchers have received the Nobel Prize - 13 for scientific achievement, four for economics and one for literary success.
Ross, of Cody's, came up with lots of ideas for new banners, including Berkeley in the '60s and famous Berkeley writers. The Telegraph business group decided to move forward with the Nobel banners as a first project and approached UC Berkeley, which responded with enthusiasm.
"I like the idea of the Telegraph area and the university celebrating something together," Ross said. "And, I'm hoping it will be educational, too. People will want to come to Telegraph and do a walking tour to see the banners."
UC Berkeley Director of Community Relations Irene Hegarty also believes the banners will be good educational tools for the community. "I hope area school teachers use this as an opportunity to take their classes on walks to see the banners," she said, "then go to the library to learn more about these esteemed Berkeley residents.
"This is just one of the partnerships between the city of Berkeley and the university. Sometimes, it's coming together to help solve a problem, such as campus police patrolling Telegraph Avenue with Berkeley city police. But this project has been exciting and positive for everyone involved."
UC Berkeley provided design and technical services for the banner project, and the Telegraph Avenue Improvement Association is paying for the installation.
When John Hickey, design director for UC Berkeley's Public Affairs office, began work on the project, he said he had no idea what kind of an endeavor it would be
"We had to work with some pretty old photos of Berkeley laureates," he said. "Some were postage stamp-sized images that had been dug up from old department files." A few, fortunately, were top quality, having been shot by Berkeley portrait photographer Paul Bishop, and some recent ones, shot by his son, Paul Bishop, Jr. Hickey worked with the Emeryville-based company, Colortone, which produced the banners.
Hickey will be on Telegraph Avenue in the wee hours of Friday morning, working with a crew to get the last of the banners hung. He and the crew will orient the banners so that both car and foot traffic will have good views. Introduction panels will greet people as they enter Telegraph Avenue.
"We're really hoping the banners will attract people and encourage them to walk the entire shopping area," said Roland Peterson, executive director of Berkeley's Telegraph Business Improvement District. "The way the banners are set up will encourage people to walk the whole way, from Bancroft to Parker Street."
Peterson added that most of the 200-plus merchants in the area are not part of any chain, but are independent shopkeepers who look forward to the added attention they envision the banners will bring, especially on Cal Day.
"I think it would be just great if families, taking a break from watching a football scrimmage or learning about dinosaurs, stroll down Telegraph to learn more about the community's illustrious history," said Hegarty.
The banners will remain in place until the campus's winter holiday, which begins in December.