Repurposing Parasitic Signage for Art
May 8, 2018 8:20 PM   Subscribe

You know those signs made out of corrugated plastic that pop up in interstitial grassy areas by the side of the road? The ones that usually have dodgy real estate offers written in marker or ads for weird diet supplements? Do the people that put them there get permission from the property owners or just plunk them down there like so much litter?

I was thinking of taking some of these signs as I find them and repurposing them for an art project. If it's something that might get me in trouble, I won't bother, but I feel like removing this seemingly scammy and ugly garbage and turning it into something better is a net good. Am I wrong in my desire to enact vigilante art?
posted by picea to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
95% of the time the signs are in code violation and have no permissions or permits, assuming you live in the USA in a metropolitan area.

I once hired a guy off one of those signs as a ‘mobile mechanic’ btw. Great guy, not scammy at all. But he complained that the city was always taking down his illegal signs :D
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:24 PM on May 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

The only main exception to these bullshirt eyesores being anything other than someone littering for profit is election signs during the campaign, as far as I know.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:26 PM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

It basically depends on the jurisdiction. But, just because someone staked their flag in a location where flags aren't allowed to be staked, it doesn't mean that you, as an individual, can confiscate those flags.
[E]ven if you wade through all of the different laws regarding political signs and determine that a sign is illegally placed, government officials recommend contacting them to remove them, rather than doing it yourself. In some circumstances, removing signs can be a criminal offense.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:32 PM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I wouldn't bother with political signs, as generally speaking they are removed in a timely manner.
posted by picea at 8:42 PM on May 8, 2018

OMG, they just plunk that shit. I used to have to host open houses for other brokers and I had to put up as many signs on street corners as I could.

In terms of picking them up? Knock yourself out. There's a company I don't like that posts signs near me. I pull them out of the ground and drop them.

I support you 100% in your artistic endeavors. Anyone who puts a sign on a street corner has to figure that it will be stolen.
posted by bendy at 12:31 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

These things are just litter, feel free to remove and repurpose them. At very worst, it is illegal in a way that nobody is ever going to care about. Almost certainly it is not illegal at all. And either way, it's a net positive for your community.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:28 AM on May 9, 2018

My partner's job is tangentially related to code enforcement and they are definitely illegal in my city. He has made it his personal mission in life to remove as many of those signs as possible, especially because they are usually predatory in nature in low income neighbor's (check cashing, payroll advance, etc). We jump out at stoplights and take them down... YSafetyMMV.
posted by raspberrE at 5:28 AM on May 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Check your local municipal ordinances and by-laws to see if there are any laws restricting the removal of signs other than election signs. These are frequently posted somewhere on line. If there is no by-law against it you are good to go.

Personally I would restrict myself to the really offensive ones, like the ones advertising usury and not the small handiman type advertisements.

There may be a by-law against removing them as opposed to taking them down. In that case they could be bent so they lie flat looking at the sky, or pulled out and placed face down in a location where your street cleaner will take them away for you.

You could also collect them and use them for an art installation along the line of the Burma-Shave ads after you print out new signs for them.

If you take them to recycling you will be doing us a service.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:56 AM on May 9, 2018

They are also called "bandit signs"-- the real estate ones, at least-- and they have a long, dark history . If they're illegal in your jurisdiction, definitely tear them down!
posted by attentionplease at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

For commercial signs, you could give the town a quick call. I wouldn't mention the art project, just that they are an illegal eyesore in your neighborhood.

For political signs, in my area, they must be removed immediately after the election, or there's a fine (seldom applied). Most campaigns get them in 24 hours, but I have some nice big pieces of corrugated plastic from lazy campaigns, well after elections day. Quite a handy product, so after primary elections, you could check the law, wait a couple days, and pull signs for unsuccessful campaigns. Primary winners will want their signs for the general election.

The wire frames that the signs are hung on make decent garden supports for beans, and a few were made into a trellis for moonflower vines.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're taking them out, please take the wire frames too. I'm a walker and I can't count the number of times I've tripped on one of these at the side of the road.
posted by scruss at 10:27 AM on May 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

if in the right of way they are litter
posted by patnok at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2018

Best answer: Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam has information/suggestions for dealing with those signs.
posted by superna at 6:34 PM on May 9, 2018

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