New art banner program in Encinitas celebrates frontline workers

A thank you banner for frontline workers by artist Sean Hnedak.
A thank you banner for frontline workers by artist Sean Hnedak.

When coronavirus cases surged in December and she feared for the health care workers she knew, Encinitas Friends of the Arts President Naimeh Woodward found solace through art.

She brought together four other artists to create decorative banners thanking frontline workers — hospital staff, mail carriers, grocery story clerks and firefighters — who were helping keep the community safe. Last week, their five new banner designs started appearing along some of the city’s busier roadways and at community facilities.

“We just wanted people know we care about them,” Woodward said as she described the new project Friday, Feb. 5.

A Thank You Banner for the Frontline Workers project in Encinitas.
Thank You Banners for Frontline Workers project in Encinitas.
(Courtesy of Barbara Henry)

The effort touches her personally. She has a number of friends who work in health care and her daughter is in nursing school and expects to have her certification soon, she said. While Woodward was handling the banner project last week, her daughter was working a 12-hour shift and helping vaccinate high-risk people, she added.

At the intersection of Via Cantebria and Encinitas Boulevard, drivers can see two of the new banners. Facing one way is an image of butterflies soaring over a bed of roses and hands folded in prayer. Artist Kirsten Francis created that one, while one of the newer members of the Encinitas Friends of the Arts group, Sean Hnedak, produced the other, which showcases the faces of frontline workers and offers a heartfelt, “Thank you” message.

The third participating artist, Deanne Sabeck, combined hands holding a heart with an iconic scene of a surfer at sunset for her banner, while artist Patricia Frischer drew hot air balloons rising over words that described frontline workers, including “grit” and “courage.”

A Thank You Banner for the Frontline Workers project in Encinitas.
(Courtesy of Barbara Henry)

Woodward used a huge pink rose in her banner design, which can be spotted on the fence at the city’s Leo Mullen Sports Park.

“To me a rose is very significant, especially a pink rose; it’s all about love,” she said, noting that a message of love is perfect for February.

The new Friends of the Arts banner project was produced in partnership with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. It was inspired by the popular Arts Alive downtown banner program, which provides banners with original artwork to decorate the Coast Highway 101 corridor each year, Woodward said.

When Woodward first proposed the idea of artistically expressing gratitude for frontline workers, there was talk of producing a mural. That shifted to images on vinyl banners because they could be done in a speedy fashion and installed in multiple places in the community, she said.

“We wanted to do it fairly quickly; we didn’t want to dillydally,” she said.

The Friends group is now collecting messages of thanks for frontline workers through its web site. People can submit notes and drawings to Woodward added that she’s also open to getting more banners printed, if businesses or community organizations want to display them.

“We’re happy to do that,” she said, commenting that doing more of this kind of thing would “make people feel better.”

The messages, along with images of the banners and additional information, can be viewed at or by using the QR code located on each banner. For more information, email The banners will be displayed at prominent locations on Encinitas Blvd., Via Cantebria and at the Encinitas Library.

To learn more about EFA, visit

— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune