SXSW founder and sign maker: We changed “David Bowie” street sign

Updated Jan 15, 2016

Roland Swenson, co-founder of South by Southwest, and Austin sign maker Jason Carter took what their attorney described as “full responsibility” Friday for replacing the Bowie Street sign with the name of music legend David Bowie, capping the city’s biggest whodunit of the week.

The sign, near the intersection with West Fifth Street, was altered Wednesday morning following the performer’s death on Sunday.

“It really took off in a way I didn’t expect or imagine,” Swenson told the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV Friday.

Attorney Perry Minton said his clients wanted to confess to eliminate the need for Austin police to spend any investigative time trying to identify who placed the sign.

Because the city did not file an official report regards the sign, Austin police have not opened an investigation to find who changed the sign, an Austin police spokeswoman said Friday. Police officials previously had said whoever was responsible for the sign change could face misdemeanor charges of theft and criminal mischief.

After Swenson and Carter came forward, the Austin Transportation Department said in a statement that the city was exploring its options regarding the incident.

“It is against the law to damage, deface, and/or steal street signs. Additionally, the repair and replacement of these signs is paid for with tax payer dollars,” the statement said.

Earlier this week, the transportation department said it had opted to leave the altered sign in place until Tuesday morning because it did not represent an immediate safety concern.

After he had the idea to change the sign, Swenson mentioned it to a few friends. Carter, owner of Wicked Signs, was contacted by an intermediary, he said.

Carter said he simply placed a decal on the existing sign and added the word “David” to Bowie Street.

Swenson had previously said SXSW had nothing to do with the sign switch.

Swenson said the sign change has brought positive attention to the city.

“It’s good for the city and it’s been fun,” he said.