Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Artist Richard Ankrom kept getting mixed up when driving a certain section of the L.A. freeways, so he took it on himself to fix the problem — and make it a performance art project at the same time.

It succeeded exactly as he had hoped: everyone, including the California Department of Transportation, thought it was a “legit” change in the sign. From the 12 May 2002 issue:

Give Me a Sign

Richard Ankrom, 46, an artist in Los Angeles, Calif., planned his latest masterpiece, a combination paint and performance work, for two years: he altered a major road sign on the Harbor Freeway in downtown. He put up his work in broad daylight, but was unnoticed because he was dressed as a road worker. The audience: 150,000 motorists per day. The payoff: no one noticed, not even state transportation engineers. The plan was to announce the project a year later, but a friend tipped off the press after 9 months. The modification, done to exact Federal Highway Administration specifications, helps motorists navigate a complicated transition ahead. “The experts are saying that Mr. Ankrom did a fantastic job,” said a Caltrans spokeswoman. “They thought it was an internal job.” The agency plans to leave the modification in place, since it is in fact helpful to motorists. Ankrom says helping out motorists “was the whole point.” (Los Angeles Times) …If You Want Something Done Right, Do it Yourself — Industrial Division.

The best part: Ankrom supplied a “time lapse” photo of himself doing the work:

Photo composite of Richard Ankrom modifying a Los Angeles freeway sign — in broad daylight. To help motorists navigate a complicated multi-freeway junction, Ankrom added the word “NORTH” and the Interstate 5 shield to the far left portion of the sign so people going that way knew what lane to get in. Yet no one “official” realized it wasn’t a real change until one of Ankrom’s friends spilled the beans. All six people shown in the photo are Ankrom at different times during the installation. (© Richard Ankrom, composited from photos by Jim Payne, reprinted with permission.)

Ankrom is, in fact, a sign-painter by profession.

– – –

Bad link? Broken image? Other problem on this page? Use the Help button lower right, and thanks.

This page is an example of my style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. This is True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.

To really support This is True, you’re invited to sign up for a subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade

(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the minimum rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online: this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.


Leave a Comment