Flickr/Castorp Republic

One of the city's districts has made street art a central part of its identity.

While American cities spend millions erasing graffiti, one Paris neighborhood is busy embracing it. In recent years, the city’s 20th arrondissement has been deliberately positioning itself as a graffiti mecca. A traditionally working-class district whose population has more recently included immigrants and artists, the 20th is now a few years into a campaign that aims to "develop urban culture at the heart of the neighborhood," meaning graffiti, or as they call it in Paris, le graff.

For graffiti aficionados, the art form represents something of a cultural bridge in a city where tensions between the government and racial minorities have sometimes erupted into high-profile incidents, like the riots of 2005. "Our cultural choices are evidently political choices," said Frédérique Calandra, the mayor of the 20th arrondissement, in a video released last year to celebrate a Europa Graffiti showcase at a local museum. "In France, it’s an art that is often disowned. We want to take it into account, and in doing so, take into account the people who are interested in it, who express themselves through it."

To do so, the 20th has turned an old bus station into a graffiti open-house, coordinated murals on empty walls around the neighborhood, and commissioned a map to help visitors find their way between noteworthy works. They even released a video called "The 20th loves graffiti." (To compare: the Brooklyn Museum was absolutely pummeled for planning to host an exhibit of graffiti last summer. They eventually backed out.) By 2014, the arrondissement will have a community center dedicated to graffiti and music.

Here’s some municipally sanctioned graff from across the pond:


Seize Happywallmaker et le mur du square Karcher... by mairiedeparis

Top image: Flickr user Castorp Republic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a highway
    Transportation

    Americans Are Spending Billions on Bad Highway Expansions

    PIRG’s annual list of “highway boondoggles” includes nine transportation projects that will cost a total of $25 billion while driving up emissions.

  2. A rendering of Quayside, the waterfront development now being planned for Toronto.
    Solutions

    A Big Master Plan for Google's Growing Smart City

    Google sibling company Sidewalk Labs has revealed its master plan for the controversial Quayside waterfront development—and it’s a lot bigger.

  3. Design

    Revisiting Pittsburgh’s Era of Big Plans

    A conversation with the trio of authors behind a new book about the Steel City’s mid-20th-century transformation.

  4. Life

    McDonald's Restaurants Are America's Ultimate 'Third Places'

    Americans have fewer and fewer spaces to gather. That’s where nuggets come in.

  5. a photo of commuters on Oakland's Bay Bridge.
    Transportation

    Can Waze Convince Commuters to Carpool Again?

    Google’s wayfinding company wants to help drivers and riders find each other on its navigation app—and ease traffic congestion along the way.

×