Edi Rama — the mayor of Tirana, Albania, for 11 years — was an artist before a politician.
“I still paint. I love the joy that color can give to our lives and to our communities,” says Rama in today’s talk, filmed at TEDxThessaloniki. Edi Rama: Take back your city with paint“I try to bring something of the artist in me to my politics.”
Tirana, Albania’s capital city, was downtrodden when Rama took office. The city budget was squandered, corruption was rampant and crime was the norm. But Rama had an idea to raise the spirits of his town — he painted a grey building a bright orange.
As Rama set out to have more of the city painted in loud colors and bold designs, he met resistance from other countries in the European Union. He was asked to opt for more neutral colors.
“I told them no. Compromise in colors is grey,” explains Rama. “When colors came out everywhere, a mood of change started transforming the spirit of the people … People started to drop less litter in the streets. They started to pay taxes. They started to feel something they’d forgotten … Beauty was giving people a feeling of being protected. This was not a misplaced feeling — crime did fall.”
To hear more about the radical transformation of Tirana, and about Rama’s thoughts on how politicians are not all the same and can bring hope to people through seemingly small actions, watch his moving talk. And here, see just some of the buildings in Tirana that got the color treatment.