Friday, August 14, 2009

Rome Prefers Not To Paint The Town

I'm going to refrain from turning this entry into an ode to my most favorite place in the entire universe, Italy (in particular, Roma), because I could go on and on and on and on and on. There's something majestic about that country from the olive oil, limoncello, abundance of Pucci scarves and Fendi bags to very beautiful monuments and landmarks that bring us back to a time when the thought of a lightbulb or even an ipod didn't exist. I studied in Rome in college (once again, I'm not going to rant on about my love affair with this country) and was flabbergasted at the idea that you could enjoy a cappuccino (or a gelato if you so please, and who doesn't?) outside a cafe in a piazza directly across the street from the Colosseum, bringing you from the 21st century right back to the 1st Century. Michael J. Fox wouldn't need a Delorian in this city.

To my delight on my most recent trip to Italy this past May, not much had changed. However, I was disappointed in the worsening of the graffiti problems in Naples and Rome, and all over the country for that matter. So many people work day in and day out to preserve and protect this history for our future generations and then someone with an aerosol can comes through in the night and "tags" (slang for partaking in graffiti art) it. But graffiti isn't just covering my Spanish Steps, it's all over the city, which has caused frustration for both Romans and tourists. People often attribute graffiti with bad neighborhoods and crime, which can cause discomfort for many roaming the city day or night.

Italian government officials have long recognized graffiti as a problem, but Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno is getting fed us from just fining caught "can-handed" artists. He wants them to clean their act up and their street art-literally. A national law he's proposing would force those who deface monuments and private property to remove their scribblings and tags instead of paying fines. Earlier this year, an amendment was made to the public safety bill stating that graffiti writers caught for a second offence face a possible jail term of six months to two years and fines ranging from 1,500 to 10,000 euros. However, the Italian legal system is already overflowing with delayed court cases and the prisons are full, leaving most of these graffiti artists off the hook. Gianni believes that forcing a cleanup will kill two birds with one stone.

Street art has long been a topic for debate. I applaud government efforts to provide designated spaces for graffiti artists to work, but I strongly believe a majority of graffiti artists out there have too much free time on their hands. I look at it this way, I wouldn't go into Michael's and start using their Plaster of Paris to make myself a wall hanging. Why? Because it's not my property, and those walls aren't those artists own either. And there ya have it. Enjoy the weekend, stay out of trouble!

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