The I-70 Sign Show is a public-art exhibition on mid-Missouri billboards. Launched in April 2014, the project embraces the interstate as a potent display opportunity for contemporary art as cultural commentary. It capitalizes on the state’s billboard surplus and engages the provocative, if frequently inadvertent, conversation of messages along the 250 miles between St. Louis and Kansas City. Artworks enter and critique this roadside dialogue, addressing culture-war themes such as religion, sex, politics, guns, race, labor, beauty, and consumption.
Sign Show activities are site specific to physical landscapes and current events, and often happen in partnership with individuals, institutions, and groups (see Collaborations and Events).
For the first two years, an agreement with billboard vendor DDI Media allowed project artworks to travel to different sites along the interstate. Each vinyl-printed image debuted for two months on the main Sign Show billboard, in rural Hatton (exit #144). Once an artwork was deinstalled, it moved to a second “satellite” billboard. DDI Media assigned the satellite boards—different locations for each artist—based on available space at the time, lending the project an element of chance and putting it in synch with the fluctuations of ad commerce.
The potential meaning of the art almost always intensified when it changed context, becoming more poetic or political in relationship with the terrain, architecture, and surrounding billboard messages.
During 2014-16, the Sign Show received financial support from the University of Missouri, specifically the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Missouri School of Journalism, the Mizzou Advantage Media of the Future initiative, and the Office of the Provost, with additional support from DDI Media. The Ed Ruscha billboard was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in Sign Show programming do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.
The S. Mark Gubb billboard collaboration (October/November 2016) was funded by a grant the artist received in Britain.
The “Keep Abortion Legal” billboard (June/July 2017), designed by artist Aleksandra Mir, was funded entirely by private contributions via Indiegogo.
Project founder and curator:
Research assistants (Jan. 2013–May 2016):
Website construction and database design: