Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sign of the Times

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When Phoenix artist and preservation advocate Michael Levine shelled out $5,500 for 890 highway signs at a state surplus auction in 1999, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with them. Call it venture capitalism.

But as Arizona’s Centennial drew near, the investment paid off: In August, Levine took about 450 of the signs and, over six days, fastened them to the wall of his warehouse near Grant and Seventh streets, creating a gigantic 1912-2012 mural.

It’s a celebration of the Centennial that’s more destination-oriented than other presentations. “You can’t go visit a photograph,” says the New York native, who incorporated thoughtful details into the mural. For example, the left-most portion makes use of black-and-white elements, reminiscent of old newspaper fonts, while the opposite side imparts a modern, almost pixelated feel. And the numbers on the speed limit signs tick upward as you read across the mural, like passing years throughout the century. 

What will happen to the mural once the Centennial is over and we’re  firmly planted in 2013? Levine says he isn’t sure, but he might update it from year to year. Call it an investment in the future.