The requests of Helsinki residents included graffiti walls, free cultural activities and a photography exhibition on utility boxes along streets. From among these proposals, legal graffiti walls were selected to be implemented in Jätkäsaari and Hernesaari during this year or next. The area surrounding Oulunkylä station will be brightened up with street art.
Easily accessible art and culture were strongly featured in the City of Helsinki OmaStadi participatory budgeting voting that took place in October last year. At that time, 31 proposals related to arts and culture were put to the vote for implementation.
Two of the proposals put forward by city residents won enough votes to move on to implementation: Legal graffiti walls for Jätkäsaari and Hernesaari and Using street art to make the area of Oulunkylä station more pleasant.
Street art becomes natural part of Helsinki cityscape
Samuli Turunen, Youth Worker and Project Manager at the Helsinki Street Art Office, welcomes the OmaStadi proposals related to street art.
“Graffiti and street art in general have gained much-needed space in the cityscape. Ensuring that the city has ample facilities for street art promotes diverse urban culture. This gives artists the chance to create their work in appropriate places,” says Turunen, the winner of the 2016 Finnish Graffiti Championship.
The new graffiti walls will become a part of the existing network of graffiti walls in Helsinki, including the graffiti wall known as Itä-Pasila Gallery established in the early 1990s and the Suvilahti graffiti wall, awarded by the Helsinki Cultural and Library Committee in 2009.
“I have been painting graffiti since I was 11 years old. Graffiti is a pretty versatile art form. We usually do our work in the district of Suvilahti or at different sites around Helsinki that have been arranged by the Kontula Youth Activity Centre Luuppi. When you are painting graffiti, you can adapt a superhero alter ego that lets you develop your skills in peace”, says young Noel Matero from Helsinki.
Pandemic cuts back proposals related to arts and culture
According to OmaStadi Development Manager Kirsi Verkka, the results of last year’s voting were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which took its toll on the popularity of proposals related to arts and culture.
“Outdoor exercise and overall cleanliness of the city were emphasised on the second round of voting. Perhaps this was due to the fact that many people went jogging or walking alone or in small groups. The restrictions related to the pandemic may have also made proposals related to cultural or public events seem too risky,” Verkka says.
OmaStadi is Helsinki’s way of implementing participatory budgeting. In the next two years, Helsinki will spend EUR 8.8 million implementing ideas proposed by city residents. The ideas will be developed together into proposals on which the residents will vote. The city will implement the proposals that get the most votes.
In the second round of OmaStadi (2020-2021), 1,463 ideas were submitted to make the city more welcoming and functional. In October last year, 397 proposals were put to the vote and 75 were put forward for implementation.
Image 1: Minna Alanko, City of Helsinki Media Bank.
Image 2: Meri Virta.