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Artist Rents Billboards to Beautify Busy Commutes

Drivers lucky enough to pass Brian Kane’s “Healing Tool” displays were treated to an eyeful of art, instead of ads.

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Our commutes, whether by car, bike, train, or foot, are peppered with signs and ads, each hocking a product or service in as eye-catching (and therefore: disruptive) a way as possible, all to snag your precious attention and—if successful—your even *more* precious money. Recently, however, drivers on several Massachusetts highways may have noticed a number of roadside billboards suddenly transformed from advertisements into something much more welcome: Soothing scenes of nature.


Located alongside highway 95 Northbound in Wakefield, MA, and 93 Southbound in Stoneham, MA, the billboards are the brainchild of Brian Kane, a multimedia creator who rented out the ad space for his installation, dubbed “Healing Tool.” On his site, Kane explains:

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“Healing Tool is art designed for people in cars. A temporary public art installation using digital billboards on interstate freeways.

The goal is to provide a moment of temporary relief and unexpected beauty during the daily grind of commuting.”
He goes on to explain that Healing Tool, which ran from June 28th through July 26th, was inspired in part by an application of the same name found in Photoshop, the popular image editing software. During the day, Kane’s billboards displayed images taken at that very site, in essence “patching” the hole the advertising space makes in the landscape. At night, the signs switched to show images of the moon or the Milky Way galaxy. Because the images changed at regular intervals, Kane hoped they offered commuters something to look forward to each time they passed on the way to and from work.

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Kane is not the first to recognize the potential artistic value of billboard space. This past spring, Iran’s capital of Tehran replaced hundreds of ads across the city with works of art from both local and international creators, in essence transforming the entire city into an open-air museum. And while Healing Tool was nowhere near that large of a project, those lucky enough to pass one of Kane’s billboards were treated to something just as impactful: A reminder that the world around us—even the parts of it usually reserved for something as ephemeral as advertising—can be a strikingly beautiful place.

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