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History

That Time An Artist Installed an I-5 Sign Over The 110 and It Stayed Up There for 8 Years

February 12, 2015 by Brian Champlin

Truly one of the greatest stories in the history of Los Angeles is that of Richard Ankrom and his quest to install a freeway sign that made the lives of L.A. drivers just a little bit easier.

It began more than a decade ago when Ankrom moved to downtown Los Angeles and took notice of a curious omission on the 110 Freeway. The I-5 exit, Ankrom saw, wasn’t indicated on the green overhead sign that directed drivers as the freeway split between the 5, 110, and 101. Whether intentional or not, it was clear that the California Department of Transportation (known as Caltrans) had made a mistake.

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Ankrom, an artist and sign painter by trade, decided to make it his personal mission to fix the error, install the correct sign,  and do us all what he would later call an act of “guerrilla public service.”

Richard Ankrom Freeway Sign

Ankrom seen here installing the sign. Credit: Richard Ankrom

Remarkably, after careful planning, sign construction, and with the help of a few friends, Ankrom’s plan succeeded. On August 5, 2001, Ankrom and his team went into action and were able to get the sign installed without incident. They even captured the events on film.

What’s more incredible, the sign stood in place for over eight years, at which point due to some routine maintenance the sign was taken down and replaced.

Watch the full account in the embed below. You can’t help but fist-pump a bit when the sign goes up and you realize that the plan actually worked. Awesomeness.

UPDATE: Subsequently found this quote from a 2002 LA Weekly article about the sign, in which Ankrom explains his artistic intentions:

“Essentially it’s a conceptual piece… It’s such a broad swath — it overlaps into performance and installation and public art and all these other things. I think the most interesting things are controversial. And I’m out on a limb too, because I don’t know where I’m going to go with this now. But this is my idea of art. Art should be incorporated more into the government’s system of design and concept.”

[h/t: 99percentinvisible.org]

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