Finnish politician facing fines after spray painting ‘Great Career Moves’ in tunnel

As It Happens5:56Finnish politician facing fines after spray painting ‘Great Career Moves’ in tunnel

A Finnish politician who has pushed to make graffiti art more accepted in the nation’s capital was recently busted for illegally spray painting in a train tunnel. 

Paavo Arhinmäki, one of multiple deputy mayors of Helsinki, was caught in a freight tunnel outside the city painting a mural that ironically, he admits, included the words “Great Career Moves.” 

Arhinmäki was with a friend when he spotted the tunnel, which reminded him of Pasila, the Helsinki neighbourhood where he grew up and fell in love with graffiti.

The incident took place in late June, when Arhinmäki thought trains wouldn’t be running because it was the Midsummer holiday weekend.

“We were stupid. We thought that nobody cares if we are painting the freight tunnel,” he told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

But they were wrong. As they were packing up their cans and readying to take pictures, they heard a train coming down the tracks. 

A view of the Helsinki skyline.
Arhinmäki said Helsinki has designated walls where graffiti is allowed, something he worked for years in city council to achieve. He says the areas allow artists to express themselves without worry.  (RONI REKOMAA/AFP via Getty Images)

“We were ready to leave the tracks when the guards came [from] everywhere and shouted ‘don’t run,'” he said. Arhinmäki waited with the guards at the railway until police arrived, the Finnish Broadcasting Company reported.

Arhinmäki said he’ll have to pay the cleaning costs of having his creation scrubbed from the tunnel’s walls.The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency told the Finnish public broadcaster the cleanup cost the city around 3,500 euros ($5,182 Cdn).

He’ll also likely have to pay a fine, the amount of which he said is yet to be determined. 

“But of course, I’m going to pay it,” he said. Arhinmäki admitted it was a stupid decision and asked for forgiveness in a Facebook post after the incident. 

Visually, he described the work, which the Finnish public broadcaster reports has since been removed, as 1970s-style New York graffiti. The mural had wavy, green lettering and grey apartment towers, in front of a blue skyline and the yellow and orange glow of a sunset, according to images published in Finnish news outlets.

Graffiti is ‘a powerful art form’: Arhinmäki

Despite the fact that Arhinmäki’s decision may not have been a great career move, he said the attitude towards graffiti in the city he represents has improved dramatically in recent decades. 

He said the city has designated walls where graffiti is allowed, something he worked for years in city council to achieve and said is quite popular.

“If you paint, in a few hours, somebody else is going to paint over it,” he said. “So that shows how much there is a need and a willingness for graffiti in Helsinki.”

He said the art form can add to a city by bringing colour to its walls, and having sanctioned areas allows people to express themselves without worry. 

A black and white photo of subway cars with graffiti.
Exterior of subway cars painted with graffiti in New York City in the 1970s. Arhinmäki says his illegal work was inspired by ’70s New York graffiti. (Leo Vals/Getty Images)

“Kids can do the art which they love, which they are interested in, without fear of getting caught and getting the prison sentences which we used to have like in the ’90s and beginning of the 2000s,” he said. 

For Arhinmäki, growing up in the 1980s graffiti was an entryway into the world of art. He said it led him to learn about the pop art movement and the work of Americans like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

After that, he became an “art fanatic,” he said, visiting art museums regularly. 

“Graffiti has been the most powerful art form for decades for kids coming into art,” he said. 

“Many of our major artists have a graffiti background and they are not just [painters], but other creative professionals as well.”

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