It is difficult to say because the artists who dodge the train, who spray and roll their aphorisms, do so under cover of night. On a whim, after researching the meaning of the latest message to appear on the bridge (more on that below), I reached out to Union Pacific for a response. Railroad spokeswoman Robynn Tysver confirmed that it is illegal and often dangerous to enter the railroad’s grounds and paint graffiti. But without saying so, Tysver hinted that the railroad may have better things to do than clean up after Houston’s delinquents.
Check out the “Be Someone” bridge over the years:
>> PHOTOS: See the look of the famous graffiti mural – and the history of the defacement – over the years …”/>1from32
November 2019 – The “BE SOMEONE” sign reads “BE SUS” after an unknown artist changed the message
>>> PHOTOS: See the look of the famous graffiti mural – and the history of the defacement – over the years …
Jay R. Jordan / Houston Chronicle
May 2019 – The Be Someone sign is back to its original blue color scheme.
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April 2019 – A group of college students create their own version of the “Be Somebody” sign using white paint.
Jay R. Jordan
April 2019 – The famous “Be Someone” bridge is covered in black paint.
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June 2018 – The graffiti was repainted after being defaced.
Jill Karnicki / Houston Chronicle
May 2018 – The popular message is “BE MATRESS MAC” in big white letters.
November 2017 – Alex Ramos and Billy Baccam from the Input / Output Digital Creative Lab in Houston have transformed the city’s “BE SOMEONE” graffiti into a beautiful work of art on the occasion of the ongoing HUE mural festival.
December 2017 – Changed to “Be One”.
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December 2017 – Changed to “Be One”.
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April 2016 – The iconic “Be Someone” graffiti tag sits above an empty, blocked I-45 that runs through downtown.
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August 13, 2015 – For the third time in a week, drivers on Interstate 45 found the infamous graffiti sign “Be Someone” altered.
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July 2013 – Be Someone Graffiti, Houston, TX
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“While we are concerned about graffiti on our bridges, our top priority is ensuring their structural integrity,” said Tysver. “Graffiti is difficult to mitigate and often returns quickly when removed.”
Perhaps that is why the “Be Someone” message was able to survive all these years, although “survive” is loosely used here because the side of the bridge facing the motorway was often marked by those who wanted to cash in on the high-traffic properties. This is one of the reasons the anonymous artist behind “Be Someone” said they would stop replacing the message every time it was covered up by someone else.
As you ride under the bridge today, you’ll see a painted message: #StopCaryFagan, referring to the Houston-based photographer who, according to Tricia Cimmins of the Daily Dot, has faced multiple allegations of sexually exploiting underage girls. The latest message comes from the anonymous creator of the Stop Cary Fagan campaign, who gathers and posts testimonies from girls and women who accuse Fagan of abuse. Fagan has not spoken out since the allegations and has not spoken out on the Daily Dot story.
Far from the uplifting “Be Someone” message, it is a righteous use of the Houston flyover nonetheless. While not recommended (or legal), what is essentially an edict of Union Pacific explains the open season for marking the bridge. This means the location can now be a soap box for all of Houston. What words an artist scribbles across the bridge remains unclear, but it will surely be decided by anyone with a message, a bucket of paint, and the courage to avoid trains.
What do you think of the bridge? Overrated and hyped by the media or a real hoardon for Houstonians? Let me know on Twitter: @jayrjordan