Graphic artist designs lighthouse tribute license plate
Published 12:05 am Wednesday, December 21, 2016
LAPLACE — Samantha Goodwin wants to save and preserve the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse.
The effort she’s helping to lead aims to restore the coastline on Lake Pontchartrain near Madisonville in an effort to connect our state’s maritime history to future generations.
When it came time to put the plan into action, it was a LaPlace-based graphic artist who provided the final piece, doing so with the free donation of time and expertise.
Goodwin is a Friends of the Lighthouse Committee member and fundraiser founder. Managed by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, the lighthouse is owned by the town of Madisonville.
“I actually did some research online for some fundraisers for lighthouses and found that South Carolina has a license plate program,” Goodwin said. “When I called them, I found out it nets over $60,000 a year. Knowing the (Tchefuncte) lighthouse is not just for Madisonville or St. Tammany Parish, it’s actually part of our state maritime history, I felt like we could accomplish the same thing.”
She enlisted the help of State Rep. John H. Schroder who sponsored a bill authorizing the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles to open up a special plate for the save the lighthouse effort.
The next hurdle was finding a graphic artist who could work with the state’s screen prints requirements to transform a picture from photographer Anthony “Chopper” Leone into a license plate.
That’s where Michael Massel came into play. It just happened to take a year to find him.
“We went through several artists before we could pin somebody down,” Goodwin said. “I felt like God brought him to me because there was no one else out there that wanted to do it. Mike was just so cordial and prompt. Within the next day I had a rendering of a photograph I sent to him.”
Massel said he is pretty excited today to see an actual license plate following a journey that took more than two years.
He joked that he was hoping to get a free license plate because of his effort but is happy to purchase one in commitment to the cause.
Massel said having Leone’s picture made his contribution somewhat easy, albeit time consuming.
“We also used inspiration from some other lighthouse plates,” he said. “Mississippi has one for the Biloxi lighthouse. We also just looked at some of the other Louisiana specialty plates just to take a historical approach and understand the media and the limitations in printing a plate, which there are a lot.”
According Massel, the design started out very complicated and kept getting simplified, concluding with what he feels is a “pretty neat design of a lighthouse on a license plate.”
Massel works professionally at A-1 Signs in New Orleans and has lived in LaPlace since 1994.
He recently worked on signage and marquee restoration for The Historic Carver Theater in New Orleans.
The fulltime music lover and part time guitar player (he enjoys Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan) holds a kinship with lighthouses after his grandmother once attended school at the Milneburg Lighthouse, which still stands today at the old Pontchartrain Beach.
Those interested in purchasing the Massel-designed lighthouse can do so by contacting their local Office of Motor Vehicles.
There is an additional $30 charge for the specialty plate that will eventually go to fund the lighthouse restoration.
Goodwin said $30 collections are put into a special plate account, and once 1,000 plate sales are achieved, the Office of Motor Vehicles sends the museum $3,500 to cover an initial deposit that is sitting in escrow.
Donations from Cleco and AT&T funded the deposit, an expenditure the museum board could not swing.
St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister said money collected from the specialty plate directly benefits the three-phase plan to restore the coastline on Lake Pontchartrain, repair the breakwater, restore the pier, build a usable road and restore the lighthouse to its original state.
“Restoration will offer the chance to connect with other local lighthouses,” Brister said. “Awareness raised through collaborations like these enhance tourism and visitor traffic to all of our communities, and as we know, increased tourism means increased revenues, and an increase in jobs for the entire state.”