Video: The Artist Who Took A DIY Approach To A Confusing 110 Freeway Sign
The story of an artist who committed an act of "guerrilla public service" on our city's freeways has gotten a second life. The podcast 99% Invisible retold the tale of artist Richard Ankrom, who once missed the exit from the northbound 110 Freeway onto the northbound 5, and returned twenty years later to fix the sign that failed him.
Ankrom's plan was meticulous though he completely bypassed the Caltrans bureaucracy: he researched freeway sign specifications and followed them precisely to create a sign that would lead 110 motorists onto the 5 without problems. On August 5, 2001, he dressed up like a contractor and put the sign up. The plan went off without a hitch, and Caltrans never noticed anything for nearly a year until a friend tipped off local media. Ankrom was nervous that Caltrans would go after him. He told the LA Weekly in 2002:
"I think the worst thing they could charge me with would be trespassing and defacing property, which I believe are still misdemeanors," he says. "But whatever the consequences are, they are. And that would again be part of the documentation of this thing. Even if I went to court, I'd get a public attorney, get a video-friendly judge, and videotape that. I wouldn't be able to pay the fine, so I'd have to do public service, which is sort of what I'm doing anyway. So it all comes full circle. But I would think if they were smart they wouldn't touch it, because it would only make them look worse."
But Caltrans ended up leaving the sign up for eight years until it was replaced by a new sign during routine maintenance. But Ankrom's contributions lived on: the new signs on the 110 also pointed the way to the 5 freeway (plus two new signs). But would-be guerrilla sign-makers beware: government agencies aren't always so happy with the DIY approach.
You can watch a video about the incident that was posted to YouTube 10 years after the sign went up: