‘Hollyweed’ prankster arrested over New Year stunt

The artist and videographer responsible for changing the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles to read ‘Hollyweed’ turned himself into the police on Monday (9 January 2017).

Security cameras recorded Zachary Cole Fernandez as he carried out the stunt on New Year’s Day. Fernandez’s creative partner and former wife Sarah Fern is also said to have been behind the work. The couple decided that Fern would be responsible for the construction and Fernandez would complete the physical installation in case one of them was arrested. “We have kids, so we didn’t want both of us to be locked up,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez openly admitted responsibility for the prank in online news outlets as well as on his Instagram account where he calls himself ‘JesusHands’. The Los Angeles Police Department only confirmed the artist’s responsibility when he voluntarily turned himself in. The artist will be released on his own recognisance and is due to appear in court on 15 February 2017.

To execute the installation, Fernandez said he had to scale some 20 feet just to reach the ladders, which are on both sides of the letters. He insists that the work was not an act of vandalism and that clamps were used to clip fabric covers in place over the letters so they could be removed easily. “We collaborated before, packed everything, trying to keep it simple and easy. I’m not about “vandalizing” things”, Fernandez said.

Responding to whether he was prepared to face the legal repercussions of his actions Fernandez said ‘sometimes in order to create that conversation, you have to be OK with the consequences’.

This is not the first time that the iconic sign has been the subject of an artistic prank. In 1976, Danny Finegood changed the sign to ‘Hollyweed’ as part of an art school project which paid tribute to the relaxation of marijuana laws in California. In homage to his predecessor, Fernandez inscribed the ‘O’ in the sign with ‘a tribute to Mr. Finegood’.

Fernandez and Fern have said they are already planning to collaborate on similar installations in future. “We’re always looking for the next thing”, Fern said.


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