Cities have been busy working on the transformation of underpasses. Street art and art installations have converted many ugly underpasses into beautiful spaces. We live in a new era in underpass design in cities, which want to revitalize communities and make public spaces more inviting.
But there is a special component added into the beautification of this underpass in the neighbourhood of Sendling-Westpark in Munich.
‘The street art world is dominated by men. We looked explicitly for female artists to paint in this tunnel’, explains Maria Hemmerlein, an Equal Opportunities Officer. ‘Many women feel uneasy using underpasses in cities, although almost zero criminal activity occurs there. We realize the space can feel uncomfortable and we wanted to make it more inviting. I thought the fact that it is going to be painted only by women could send a strong message’.
And it does indeed. To me this action is not only about beautifying another faded underpass; it is also a statement about enhancing the place of women in cities.
How is the presence of women visible in our streets? How do women think and design cities?
According to the Cities Programme, the urban arm of the United Nations Global Compact, ‘we contribute to stronger, more cohesive, equitable and sustainable cities (Goal 11) through improving the position and participation of women’.
City governments also have considerable opportunity to improve safety and any kind of violence in ways that better empower women in cities. It is crucial to have women as decision makers in cities.
Maria Hemmerlein and her colleagues contacted the organization IMAL (International Munich art lab) where young female artists immediately showed strong interest. ‘We love the freedom to choose what we want to paint and painting in an open space was very tempting’, explains one of the young artists.
IMAL has been founded by artists with the aim of supporting children and adolescents in the development of their artistic and creative interests and abilities. It is supported by the City of Munich within the framework of a European Programme.
City decision makers, the private sector and civil society leaders can influence considerable improvements for women on the local level in cities.