Edi Rama, the former Mayor of Tirana (the capital of Albania) gave a TED talk recently about how he incorporated his former career as an artist into his politics, with overwhelmingly positive results. “We faced many challenges,” Edi Rama told the audience, “Art was part of the answer, and my name, in the very beginning, was linked with two things: demolition of illegal constructions in order to get public space back, and use of colors in order to revive the hope that had been lost in my city.”
Rama explains that in the beginnings of his eleven year tenure as mayor, his budget was next to nothing. In order to revive the city and its community, he turned to his artistic roots. As one can see in the image above, Tirane was made over with an ambitious color palette. The work faced some opposition at first, mainly from governmental officials; however, the public was overwhelmingly supportive of the work going on.
That was when Rama began to notice some of the deeper effects that the repainting was having on the community.” The rehabilitation of public spaces revived the feeling of belonging to a city that people lost,” Rama said. People felt pride about their own place, they dropped less litter in the streets, and paid taxes. He even went on to mention that people began to remove the shutters off of their windows and feel safer out in the streets as the shared attitude of communal ownership began to take hold.
As Rama said, paint on the walls of the city’s buildings did not in and of itself revive the economy, feed the hungry or improve the quality of life. However, it established a foundation of peace and community unity that allowed the necessary reforms to succeed, taxes to be collected and the local governmental systems to curb corruption.
The story of Tirana and Edi Rama show how simple it can be to promote peace in an area where it may seem impossible. When we can create ways to get an entire community engaged and shake up the status quo, peace can suddenly become attainable without needing the grandiose and expensive solutions that we can assume are the only options available.