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The Last Billboard: Simplistic Poetry in the City

Jon Rubin

At the corner of Highland Ave and Baum Blvd, above one of the busiest intersections in East Liberty, there is an old fashioned metal framed billboard on one of the rooftops.

The messages on the billboard have changed fairly often over the last 4 years. The chosen phrases are simplistic and not like a typical advertisement. Recent press from websites such as Buzzfeed have prompted curiosity about where the messages come from and why they’re there.

Jon Rubin is the unique interdisciplinary artist behind the project, which he calls The Last Billboard.

Rubin explained that the billboard started as a way to broadcast messages from a larger project in one of the storefronts below. The Waffle Shop, which is now closed, was a combination restaurant and talk show.  At the end of his work with the Waffle Shop, Rubin said he wanted to continue using the billboard.

"I decided to keep the billboard running autonomously, as its own kind of enigmatic sign system in the sky. And right now, we use it just as a publishing space. I think of it as a space in the middle of the city, in the middle of the sky, in which thoughts and ideas from Pittsburgh and around the world are presented."

The name of the project, "The Last Billboard" seems very ominous and Rubin says this effect is intentional.

"I think in some ways,it's perhaps, a plea for the end of advertising on billboards in most cities, and the sort of public noise that they make. And a replacement with a text that is much more poetic, enigmatic and thoughtful. There's no branding on the billboard, there's no way to know where any of this comes from, but unlike, say a guerilla advertising campaign, where you might see something strange in a public space and in the end it's an advertisement. There really is no bottom line. There's no point. It's about sharing thoughts and ideas with the citizens of the city through a means that was used by advertising previously."

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