Under the Sun

The Man Who Hangs His Political Disdain High Above Phoenix Freeways

The Man Who Hangs His Political Disdain High Above Phoenix Freeways
Mike Miskowski

“My worst nightmare is someone takes one of my signs and rearranges the words, so it says something pro-GOP,” the furniture designer Mike Miskowski said last week. “That would not be a good thing.”

Miskowski is the man behind the large-scale anti-Donald-Trump signage that has been decorating local freeways for more than four years.

“I started it, you know, after Trump was elected. I thought, I can’t just sit and watch this happen. I’d been following this guy on a liberal political website — he’s known as The Freeway Blogger and he wrote about how he started hanging signs back when Bush got elected. That inspired me. I thought that would be a good thing to do.”

Later, he and The Freeway Blogger hooked up and became friends; they hang signs together when he’s in town, said Miskowski, who was among a group of local artists that founded the downtown arts scene in the 1980s.

“Back then, we were doing performance art and gallery shows and all kinds of stuff. People think downtown art started with Roosevelt Row and First Friday, but we were there first. It was such a fun, creative era.”

Miskowski's creative in a different way these days. He said he wasn’t certain which of his signs was the first.

“God, what was it?” he asked, trying to remember. “I think it was ‘Trump is Putin’s Bitch.' Yeah, that one was first.” He laughed. “It was a big sign, too. I realized later they didn’t need to be that big.”

All of his signs are handmade, he said. “I tile them. I print one letter or a word on my printer and glue them on cardboard with spray mount. I’ve got it down to a science.”

Most of the other political signers Miskowski knows paint their signs by hand, using a light projector to outline each letter. “That looked like too much work to me,” he said. “But when I tell them I tile mine, they all look at me funny, like I’m cheating.”

His most popular signs came before the recent presidential election and included “Trump Is A Whiny Bitch” and “Most Corrupt President Ever.” Before that, “Trump Locks Babies In Cages” got a lot of attention, as did “Your Vote Is Your Weapon.”

He posts his messages on pedestrian walkways over local freeways. “That one at the downtown I-10 corridor there is really perfect,” he said. “They get about 5,000 cars every hour. Other than that, the two best places are the overpass at Shea and the 51, and there’s a really good one out on the 101 that I like.”

Now that Trump is no longer president, Miskowski said, he’s shifted focus. “For the first few weeks, I felt like I was creating in a vacuum,” he admitted. “I’m focusing on the GOP with my signs now. All about their crazy behavior. Any message I can get in under seven feet of space.”

He figured he’d done more than 300 signs by now. “It’s really caught on. There are probably about a dozen of us doing this all over the country.”

In Phoenix, he said, few knew he’s the guy behind the signs. “Francine Ruley asked me one day if I was making the signs or just photographing them,” he recalled, referring to a well-connected arts doyenne. “I thought, if Francine doesn’t know it’s me, nobody does.”

It hasn’t been easy to gauge community response to his signs, Miskowski said. “I get horn honks while I’m hanging them. That makes you feel good. And the response when I post a photo of a sign on Facebook and Twitter has been good.”

Otherwise, who knew? “I’d like to think I had a hand in Biden taking Arizona,” he said, somewhat reluctantly. “But there’s no way to know.”

Most of his political messages are taken down by pedestrians, he said, and not by city clean-up crews. On average, he can count on a sign staying up about half a day, though some have come down in an hour.

“As long as they’re not obstructing traffic, they’re totally legal. The cops might be able to cite me for littering, but that’s about it.”

Miskowski laughed again. “And I guess they’d have to catch me first.”
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela