Ability to paint over 'Be Someone' sign in jeopardy as state files charge on artist

Lileana Pearson Image
Friday, March 31, 2023
Artist charged after painting over 'Be Someone' sign, records say
We may no longer see different signs painted over Houston's iconic "Be Someone" sign as the state files a felony charge against an artist.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After seeing the iconic "Be Someone" sign painted over several times, the state is working toward putting an end to it.

The artist who more recently altered the sign to say "NO WAR KNOW PEACE," now faces a felony charge, charging documents say.

Last year, an artist painted over the unofficial Houston landmark, which was first painted over Interstate 45 in 2012. In February, the state filed a charge against 27-year-old Chandrika Metivier for painting over the sign multiple times.

The state claims the artist altered the sign to say: "WOMANLIFEFREEDOM," and the current message, "NO WAR KNOW PEACE."

SEE RELATED STORY: Houston's iconic 'Be Someone' graffiti returns to overpass after months

Metivier, who identifies as non-binary, is accused of knowingly painting the steel rail bridge owned by Union Pacific Railroad. They admitted to painting the bridge in an interview with the Chronicle in March 2022.

This charge could be the end of artists being able to paint over the popular sign.

Eyewitness News reached out to the district attorney's office, but because this is an ongoing investigation, they pointed us to Union Pacific, which owns the railroad and also provided a statement to the Chronicle.

"Union Pacific cannot look the other way when safety is on the line. Artists who trespass on bridges to 'tag' a message - whether a positive or negative message - risk both their life and the lives of innocent motorists, pedestrians and others traveling below. We urge everyone for their safety and the safety of our employees and the public to stay off railroad property," a Union Pacific spokesperson told the newspaper.

Metivier has not commented on the lawsuit.

Documents say Metivier admitted on a podcast interview that they painted the most recent message on the bridge to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The original "Be Someone" artist vaguely alluded in May 2021 that they may not paint the bridge anymore.

In 2018, a Houston man even fought to get city hall to protect the graffiti by creating a petition on the Change website. The petition reached over 13,000 signatures, but it failed to become an official landmark.

Painting over the "Be Someone" sign means hanging from Interstate 45 and painting as vehicles pass below. The charging document notes anybody who attempts to alter the sign would, "interfere with the safe, efficient, and normal operations of the railroad and would pose an unwarranted liability to the property owner and violator."

It also states that it would have to close a portion of Interstate 45 to repaint the bridge, which would likely cost over $30,000 and cause major traffic congestion.

ABC13 also reached out to the original "Be Someone" artists but have not heard back. In the past, the artists spoke anonymously about the art's messaging.

"I understand, I get it, it's vandalism, but in a different sense, if you take those two words and apply them to yourself, they might mean something to you," the artists said.

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