Artist capitalizes on nostalgia to reinvent neighborhood watch signs

September 24, 2014

If you’re going to organize a neighborhood watch program, who better to include in the group than the Hulk, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Spiderman? In fact, as long as you’re creating a dream team, why not bring Buffy the Vampire Slayer into the mix? And Alex Foley from the movie Beverly Hills Cop? And the man who set the standard for good neighbors everywhere, Mr. Rogers?

This ultimate cast of characters obviously isn’t available for real world neighborhood watch duties—but their images are. And one Toronto man has taken matters into his own hands, putting the power of those images to work on more than 70 neighborhood watch signs. Since 2012, he’s been printing pictures of select superheroes, sitcom stars, and other figures and gluing them to the signs, covering a faded rendering of three houses, each adorned with a peering eye.

Not all of the signs feature heroes per se. The images also include the Care Bears, Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons, Ma and Pa Ingalls, and Super Grover (well, OK, he’s technically a superhero). But they’re all chosen because they meet certain criteria. The point, according to the artist behind the alterations, is simply to improve the old signs with nostalgic images that bring to mind safety and protection.

Reaction to the sign makeovers has apparently been overwhelmingly positive. People enjoy seeing their favorite characters featured on the signs. Even the executive director of the Crime Prevention Association of Toronto speaks highly of them. The signs certainly bring more attention to crime prevention this way. They’ve been recently featured in The Huffington Post, the Toronto Sun, and the National Post, among other media outlets.

Reporters have done their duty and raised the question they have to ask: Is the artist committing a crime himself, by altering these government signs? It could be called vandalism, and officially, it seems his position is precarious. He knows it enough to use a pseudonym, Andrew Lamb, when speaking with the media. But he also does his work by daylight, never hiding from passersby and even taking recommendations and suggestions. It’s telling that he’s never been arrested or, apparently, even questioned by police.

Perhaps unofficially, law enforcement recognizes his contribution to their cause. It can’t hurt to have a team of beloved cartoon characters, solid fantasy citizens, and a few superheroes on your side.

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Category: Neighborhood Watch

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