‘I’m So Sorry for This Stupid Foolishness’: A Helsinki Deputy Mayor Was Busted Painting Graffiti in a Railway Tunnel

It will cost the city a reported $3,830 to remove the mayor's handiwork.

Chairman Paavo Arhinmäki of the Left Alliance campaigns in Helsinki, Finland on April 18, 2015. Photo Vesa Moilanen/AFP via Getty Images.

Paavo Arhinmäki, one of the four deputy mayors of Helsinki, Finland, may have a future ahead as a graffiti artist if he’s ever done being a politician. 

He has apologized for painting a graffiti mural in a railway tunnel in his home city with the help of a friend, according to an AP report, which said that some are calling on the deputy mayor in charge of culture and leisure to resign. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency further told public broadcaster YLE that it will cost some $3,830 to remove his handiwork, a mural with letters in shades of green set against an urban landscape. 

“I’m so sorry for this stupid foolishness of mine,” he wrote in a Facebook post, translated by the social media company. “I’m asking for forgiveness.”

The mural represents the Pasila neighborhood of Helsinki, he explained, calling it “Finland’s graffiti cradle,” where he grew up and got excited about the art form. He has been painting at some of the city’s legal graffiti sites for 15 years, he added. When he and a friend noticed what he thought would be an unused tunnel, especially in midsummer, they chose to paint a mural, which took more than two hours of work. But when he heard sounds, he knew a train was coming. 

“At the same time, guards appeared on the bridge, who shouted that it’s not worth trying to escape,” Arhinmäki wrote. “What would we middle-aged parents even try to run to when the car was parked next to us?”

According to local paper Helsingin Sanomat, train traffic on one line was halted for 10 minutes due to the graffiti. 

“The easy joke is that he shouldn’t quit his day job, but that’s partly in earnest,” graffiti expert Carlo McCormick told Artnet News by phone. “The style is a little weak. Instead of bubbly letters, he’s doing squiggly letters, which is sweet because it has nothing to do with the evolution of graffiti writing.”

Per the AP report, Helsinki spends more than $700,000 a year cleaning up illegal graffiti, and is working on setting up locales where street artists can legally ply their trade.

The greater problem, said McCormick, is the way the country deals with graffiti overall. The cordoned-off areas where it’s allowed, he said, are “a public policy in search of a problem. They spend over a half a million Euros every year cleaning up that shit, and what for?”

Arhinmäki served as a minister for culture and sport from 2011 to 2014, and is a former lawmaker and chairman of the Left Alliance party.

“I have committed a crime and bear full responsibility for it,” Arhinmäki told YLE on Monday, but he gave no indication he will resign. The Left Alliance is supporting his remaining on the Helsinki City Council.


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