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The I-70 Sign Show
300+ billboards adorn the 250-mile stretch of interstate highway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. The advertised messages are often in tension: it’s not uncommon to see a Christian-inspired billboard in one moment and an advertisement for an adult superstore the next. The I-70 Sign Show, a public art project sponsored by the University of Missouri–Columbia, has been adding a different kind of message to the mix since its launch in April 2014. Project founder and curator Anne Thompson invites contemporary artists to exhibit a new or existing work on two I-70 billboards. Artworks are first displayed on the project’s main board, in rural Hatton, Missouri. When the artworks on this board change, the old work rotates to a “satellite” billboard for a second display period elsewhere on the interstate—in a different location for each artist. The Sign Show always has two artworks on the interstate at a time, and the potential meaning of the art shifts with its context, depending on the landscape, architecture, population, and surrounding billboard messages. Thompson originally scheduled the project for a twelve-month run but plans to continue it through the end of 2015. In concert with the New Terrains conference, Ally Johnson spoke with Thompson to learn more.