Clever Street Artist Draws Anatomically Correct Body Part to Get Rid of Potholes

'Wanksy' has been spray-painting penises around road craters in Manchester, England—and local officials are scrambling to cover up the pictures.
(Photo: Wanksy/Facebook)
Apr 30, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Over the years, British street artist Banksy has used his work to draw attention to social issues such as the Syrian war and the horrors of animal slaughterhouses. Now it seems that his activism has inspired one of his U.K. peers to strike back against that modern scourge of city bikers, drivers, and pedestrians: the pothole.

How, you ask, can an artist get city officials to fill one of the potentially damaging craters? By drawing a gigantic penis around it, of course.

After several of his cyclist friends around his suburban Manchester neighborhood got into pothole-induced crashes, “Wanksy” began spray-painting penises on the streets.

“I wanted to attract attention to the pothole and make it memorable. Nothing seemed to do this better than a giant comedy phallus,” Wanksy told the Manchester Evening News.

Wanksy found that although officials in his Ramsbottom neighborhood tend to ignore polite requests to fill concrete gashes in the streets, they’ve been quick to fix the holes to get rid of his drawings. Some potholes that sat unfilled for nearly a year are being fixed in a jiffy, according to the artist.

A pothole that was filled after Wanksy drew a penis around it.

“Been there 8 months at least. A bit of art and they are filled in 48 hours,” the artist wrote about one photo of his work that he posted to the Wanksy Street Artist Facebook page.

Thanks to his activism, Wanksy has become something of a vigilante hero. On his Facebook page, some of his 16,000 fans are calling him a “legend.” Other admirers are sharing stories of the damage done to their vehicles by potholes Wanksy has targeted.

One Facebook user, Cerys Ward, posted a comment under a photo that Wanksy shared of a still unrepaired pothole, noting that the crater had caused about $310 in damage to her tires. “Good on you Wanksy. Let’s make the council realise we won’t put up with the ridiculous condition of our roads,” she wrote.

Other people are posting messages begging him to come to their towns. Requests are pouring in from across the U.K. as well as from the United States, India, and several European cities.

A crater waiting to be fixed.

It sure seems like the U.S. could use the artist’s help. According to 2014 data from the AAA, the damage potholes do to vehicles costs Americans about $6.4 billion per year. In car-dependent Southern California, potholes have even become a major campaign issue for politicians seeking elected office. During Los Angeles’ hotly contested 2013 mayoral race, candidate Wendy Greuel went out on the streets to fill 47 potholes. Meanwhile, her opponent—and L.A.’s current mayor—Eric Garcetti launched a smartphone app that made it a snap to report the holes that bust tires and wreck a vehicle’s suspension.

But despite the international adoration for Wanksy’s efforts, at least one elected official in the artist’s community is less than thrilled.

“Has this person, for just one second, considered how families with young children must feel when they are confronted with these obscene symbols as they walk to school? Not only is this vandalism, but it’s also counter-productive,” an unnamed council spokesperson told the Manchester Evening News.

According to the spokesperson, Wanksy’s actions are wasting the community’s limited resources. The spokesperson also hopes someone in the greater Manchester area will turn Wanksy in to police. But given how thrilled folks are about getting potholes filled, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon.