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Banksy probably wants you to skip his next Pa. show

Plus, a Sheetz vs. Wawa face-off in Happy Valley.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.

March 10, 2023
Inside this edition: Changing clocks, Pennsylvania > NYC, baseball mystery, Charter Day, favorite city, and when a Banksy show isn't.
🏆  TEST TIME: If you’re confident you followed the news closely this week, there’s only one way to prove it: Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
Reminder: The clocks spring forward on Sunday.

Now, a question: A council member from which Pennsylvania city is considered the "Father of Daylight Saving Time"?

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

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Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One thing worth knowing: Built by The Pennsylvania Railroad company and opened in 1919, the Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC was once the largest in the world. Now it's being razed to make way for a skyscraper as nearby Pennsylvania Station remains a shell of its former self.

» One thing worth reading: The deaths of six former Philadelphia Phillies due to a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer led The Inquirer to test the Monsanto-made AstroTurf at Veterans Stadium where they played. The paper found "concerning" levels of toxic chemicals.

» One thing worth watching: "The most heated rivalry in food" may be coming to a head in Pennsylvania: Wawa is planning to open its first Centre County location — across the street from an existing Sheetz

» One thing worth doing: Sunday marks 342 years since the charter formally creating Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn. You can see it for free all next week at the state museum in Harrisburg.

» One thing worth hearing: Actor Steve Carell told the Office Girls podcast that of all the places he's visited in the U.S., Pittsburgh is his favorite: “I mean, I’m not saying that ironically either."

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» What's in Gov. Shapiro's $44B budget plan
» Trapped by Pa.'s legal competency checks
» Accused Pa. lawmaker says he will resign
» When outside groups pay Penn State salaries
» Join a free panel on Pa. open health records
A mural showing a child swinging from a parking sign.
A Banksy mural in Los Angeles. (Amg foto / Flickr)

A 32-city international touring exhibition “that immerses audiences in the works of the world's most infamous and elusive artist: BANKSY” comes to Pittsburgh this month with a secret location, VIP tickets selling out at more than $50 a piece, and no input from the artist at all.  

It’s the latest in a long line of unauthorized shows invoking Banksy’s name — or nom de paint — and capitalizing off the artist’s creations. The shows have been everywhere, from an abandoned Bed Bath & Beyond in D.C. to a tony mall in Israel. One hit Philadelphia last year

The pieces shown are reproductions, spinoffs, or originals on loan from private collections, though sometimes not enough of them.

Critics — seizing on incongruities between Bansky’s subversiveness and the conventional commerce on display, not to mention the themed cocktails for sale — have at times been ferocious: “One piece of text on the wall is a Banksy quote about the necessity of art to make one uncomfortable, yet this show is designed to do the exact opposite,” San Francisco’s 48 Hills wrote of one unauthorized exhibition. “Pure bourgeois comfort food.”

The roadshow coming to Pittsburgh on March 31, dubbed Banksyland, is more of the same, mixing “authenticated works and replica installations,” per a Los Angeles Times review.

Banksy’s verified Instagram account has signaled its displeasure with similar shows in the past, but the artist has taken no action. PA Local reached out through Banksy's “Pest Control” handling service but didn’t hear back. One Thousand Ways, the company behind the Banksyland tour, didn’t respond either but spoke with Oregon ArtsWatch, which called the outfit’s nonprofit status and charity pledges highly suspect. 

“The opacity surrounding the exhibition extends in every direction,” the outlet noted.  

A Banksy mural with the words "This'll look nice when it's framed" is seen on a wall above buildings.
A Banksy mural in San Francisco. (fredsharples / Flickr

The organizers told The Los Angeles Times that “Being unauthorized is the verbiage that we use to convey that this is not produced by Banksy” and that the show contains no new works, adding that One Thousand Ways offered 100% of the proceeds to the artist, which they say Banksy declined.

Street artists are in a genre perhaps most susceptible to this odd dynamic of unapproved tribute shows given the anonymity — and legal insulation — so many of them employ.

Darryl “Cornbread” McCray is widely considered to be the world's first modern-era graffiti artist, having started out in Philadelphia in the 60s. His tag was ubiquitous and applied everywhere from The Jackson 5’s jet to a former circus elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo, the latter to counter erroneous news reports of his untimely death, he told PA Local by phone. 

The animal was painted “Cornbread Lives.”

In the decades since, his work began to make him money

It’s also taken him to galleries and shows around the globe — even NPR’s Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me. He’s headed to Italy for an exhibition later this year.

McCray counts himself as an admirer of Banksy’s work — he believes Banksy’s own living elephant painting was a nod to his — and is thrilled to see street art legitimized on this scale.

(Here’s a breakdown of the difference between street art and graffiti.)

“This thing went from the subculture to the mainstream. That’s what I always wanted. I wanted it to be on television. I wanted it to win awards,” he said by phone. 

But McCray acknowledges the limits of intellectual property rights are painfully acute for rogue artists, adding of the unauthorized Banksy shows: “There’s really nothing he can say about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this starts happening a lot.” 

It already has. There were no fewer than four unauthorized Banksy shows circling the globe last year, some counting millions of visitors

A framed painting of a cottage with the words "Home sweet home" scrawled across it in white paint.
A piece from Banksy's Bristol Museum takeover in 2009. (JOHN19701970 / Flickr)

Banksy did take successful legal action against an Italian museum for profiting off of the Banksy name and catalog. But as The Conversation reported, the case presented an unusual dilemma: Any attempt to enforce a copyright claim will require the disclosure of a government name.

In the meantime, the commerce keeps flowing.

Random building owners are cashing in on Banksy-made murals and (alleged) ex-girlfriends are coming forward with (alleged) original works.

Jimmy McMenamin, artist/owner of Glossblack, LLC in Philadelphia, went from tagging trains to five-figure mural contracts with some of the largest companies in the world. He said there is money to be made in street art and graffiti now — and a right and wrong way of doing it. 

“[Some companies] see the monetary value in street art or graffiti, while at the same time ignoring it as a true art form with a deep history,” McMenamin said. “It’s trendy, it sells, let’s just make money from it, essentially. Banksy therefore becomes the biggest target for plagiarism.” 

Sheryl Oring, dean of the School of Art at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, doubts Banksy-style unauthorized exhibits — while “problematic,” ethically dubious, and concerning for their stripping of creative control — will become the new norm. 

She added: “But street art is this interesting phenomenon, right, because it’s art in the public realm. It’s got a different sort of place in the world, and maybe a feeling of sort of anything goes.” 

As for Banksy, the artist’s website previously posted this response when asked if the eponymous exhibits are legit: “Nope. Banksy has NOTHING to do with any of the current or recent exhibitions and they are nothing like a genuine Banksy show. They might be crap so please don’t come to us for a refund.”

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor 

Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all monthly gifts will be matched 12X!
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
Former Pittsburgh council member and industrialist Robert Garland is considered the "Father of Daylight Saving Time" because of his relentless and ultimately successful lobbying for its U.S. adoption

Thanks for reading PA Local. We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 
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