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Street Signs

Guerilla messages offer direction

At the intersection of Tacoma’s Stadium Way exit, two red panels with hand-painted white text adorn the metal posts guarding an empty lot: “REALLY LOVE SOMETHING,” they read. It’s a simple enough message. Who stuck it there? How’d they come up with this life-affirming message?

“You don’t need to be a hooligan artist to post your message for the world to see,” says Dan Martin, Tacoma artist and founder of the Street Sign Project. “Lately I much prefer the community organizing and empowering elements of non-commissioned street work,” he says, though he recently played a key role at the all-ages Peabody Waldorf gallery.

SSP aims to contribute to a more lively and interactive public space, deriving inspiration from non-destructive street art around the world. Single words or whole phrases appear like shards of glitter, often in unlikely places. “PLANT,” “COLLABORATE,” and “REVOLUTION” currently reside in Tollefson Plaza. “PONDER GRACE” can be found atop a lamppost. Some can even be found in the branches of trees. A recent development includes duct tape networks, matrix-like symbols that “represent ideas and how they spread through communities,” Martin explains.

SSP’s newest project is the “outreach street team”—a scavenger hunt that sets contestants on the prowl for other works of guerrilla art. Winners receive packages of art in the mail—and they must install their prizes in their towns and send photos as proof. “Sort of like a 21st century graffiti pen pal program,” Martin says.

See more in the July 2011 issue   →