What If We Put the Hilltop Steakhouse Cactus Atop the ICA?

An absurd, photoshopped suggestion brings up interesting thoughts about public attempts to save roadside attractions.

An absurd, photoshopped suggestion for how to save the giant Hilltop Steakhouse cactus sign actually inspires some interesting thoughts about preserving iconic—if kitschy—roadside attractions.

Namely, do people care enough about the landmark to find a creative way of preserving it? The 70-foot, internally lit cactus currently sits outside Hilltop Steakhouse alongside Route 1 in Saugus. The restaurant announced it was going out of business last week, which prompted a lot of moaning and reminiscing among those who have come to recognize the place as a landmark. Among the voices were those who worried more about the giant sign than the actual red meat within:

That prompted Craig Silva to tweet out his imagining of the cactus atop Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. It’s a laugh-out-loud idea that’s since been reposted by Universal Hub and Boston.com.

And while it seems like an unlikely resolution to the cactus’s uncertain future, WBUR’s Meghna Chakrabarti pointed out on Twitter that this wouldn’t be the first time Massachusetts rallied to a roadside corporate banner. In 1983, Citgo planned to dismantle its sign in Kenmore Square. The Boston community protested and petitioned the Landmarks Commission to save the roadside attraction. Eventually, Citgo refurbished the sign itself. Over 750 people gathered at Kenmore to watch the lights blink back on.

Now, the Hilltop Cactus is no Citgo sign. And even if it were, we’re probably not going to put it atop the ICA. (Where would the Red Bull cliff jumpers go?) But to the idea’s limited credit, we’ll say this: In a city whose public art the Boston Globe art critic Sebatsian Smee recently called “not just relentlessly conservative” but “also dismayingly morbid” a giant, colorful cactus atop a museum in fast-growing region of the city would be, um, a bolder idea than we’re used to.