- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 20, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - For a little over a month, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library played host to art from one of the world’s most famous - and elusive - street artists. This weekend, Kokomo said goodbye.

The “Haight Street Rat,” a piece by Banksy, drew thousands of people to the library, where it was on display since Aug. 4. Brian Greif, owner of the piece and producer of the documentary “Saving Banksy,” visited when the artwork was installed and again this weekend to pack it up.

Greif previously managed television stations in California, but in 2013 he left his job to work on the documentary about taking the piece by Banksy down from the wall outside of a bed and breakfast in San Francisco and trying to find a new home for it.

On Monday, he visited with art students at Kokomo High School to discuss Banksy and other street artists, and some students wanted to know what got Greif interested in street art.

“At first, it was the personalities,” Greif said. “This group is not concerned with making money. Their goal is to share art with the public.”

Greif now works with street artists from around the world, and he said hopes people will see the work of the many famous artists out there, not just Banksy. He showed artwork from Guido van Helten, who creates huge works on the side of skyscrapers, and ROA, an artist from Brussels, Belgium, who creates black-and-white images of animals.

Though Greif said he’s officially retired, he rarely gets a break from working with other street artists and traveling with his Banksy piece, which weighs hundreds of pounds and has to be handled delicately.

When he paid to have the piece removed from the San Franciscan bed and breakfast, Greif knew he wanted to find a place that could display it for free. Though he has received numerous offers for the piece - including one for $1.7 million - he was determined not to sell it.

When he failed to find a permanent home for it at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, he decided to put it on tour at places that would show it to the public for free. Trina Evans, branch assistant at the KHCPL, watched the documentary and decided to reach out to Greif, who agreed to show it at the library.

Lisa Fipps, director of marketing at the KHCPL, said they saw at least 1,500 people visit the library to see the piece. The library also hosted special programming to fit in with it, such as a discussion on street art and a board where library visitors could leave their own mark. They also saw people from all over the country, from California to Texas to Florida.

“We were very happy and very pleased with the turnout,” Fipps said.

Now, the piece is on the way to the Sierra Arts Foundation in Reno, Nevada. Greif has several cities lined up after that, and he plans to continue showing it for free.

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/2ycAOMd

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com


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