On leaving Chiaiano metro station just one month ago, one would have encountered the decay and neglect typical of the suburbs. The drabness and fragmentation of the area just heightening a sense of unease and danger in the daily commuters. Again, just one month ago, the red logo of the association LET'S THINK LIVING AN IDEA (http://www.letsthink.it/sito/) appeared on the walls of the station, heralding the change to come. A few days later, the first brushstrokes of colour appeared on the grey concrete, the start of the work which would transform the metro bridge at Chiaiano into a BRIDGE BEYOND WALLS (https://www.facebook.com/oltreimuri?fref=ts).
"One day as we were driving under the metro bridge at Chiaiano, I looked up and it struck me that this was a place that could make people feel anxious and frightened" explains Gianluca Di Maro, president of Let's Think.
Active in the Naples area for a number of years, the association's core is made up of volunteers driven by the need for intervention in the 'non-places" of the city, with projects and workshops covering topics such as law, art, education, and the social integration of people with their surroundings. "Beyond the Walls" in particular seeks the joint participation of different strands of society: at-risk youngsters, the disabled and also the general public, using art as the means to express what words sometimes cannot. These aims have taken on a tangible form under the bridge at Chiaiano, where those involved have been working tirelessly and enthusiastically over the last few weeks bringing colour to the walls. The imaginative contribution of artists not just of local but also European significance has been crucial and can be seen throughout. Lelia Andreoli, Marco Matta, Raro, Omar Mohammed, Snervantes, Valerio Tuccillo, Teso and Gola are some of those who have left their original mark completely voluntarily, following the theme "from the suburbs to the centre" and depicting images of a pre-industrial past. The pillars of the metro have thus been transformed into trees, the concrete has suddenly been populated with both images of cows and floral patterns, but also complex mechanical gear systems.
"The aim of the project was also to integrate different artistic realities, and we have succeeded in that despite the technical difficulties we have come up against" explains Raro, "working under both financial and time contraints has been hard. We have worked at night for 15 days, and it has been a race against time to get it finished at all." In fact, as Di Maro emphasises "the artists have willingly given us their time and work for no payment. We didn't have a formal contract, so we haven't benefited from public funds, we have just had permission to go ahead from theNaples town council and the Naples Metro who have provided us with just enough means to complete the project. The small amount of money we have received from sponsors has been directly invested in buying paint."
But the diversity represented on the bridge at Chiaiano goes way beyond artistic pastiche. “We enrich ourselves through our mutual differences” is the message written on the wall in front of the station entrance by disabled youngsters from the AugurAbile Association (http://www.augurabile.it/sito/). “Working with paints and colours always gets the children excited. Art is immediate and can overcome the difficulties of using words” explains Valentina Maisto, president of AugurAbile. It is not coincidental that A bridge beyond walls has also earmarked 50m2 for the artwork of at-risk youngsters and for the re-education of young people in the "home detention" scheme used by the associations Set Me Free (https://www.facebook.com/associazionesetmefree) (Giugliano in Campania) and Let’s Think.
"Neglect, diversity, indifference, rejection and doubt" These are the obstacles that A Bridge beyond walls is trying to overcome, and a month or so before the project's inauguration, changes are starting to be felt. Raro is in no doubt: "I think that, despite the technical problems, we have succeeded in shaking up people who had got used the way things were, showing them the difference that positive action can make in our area. Thanks to our project they have put in new lighting and repaired the road. Now it's up to the citizens to look after this space." Valentina Maisto is also pleased with the response "passers-by stop, curious to see what we're working on, and, more than once, they've offered to lend us a hand."
The technical difficulties encountered by the artists, such as the lack of response to a call for funding for the project, show how institutions and people's views are still not quite ready for change. It is precisely for this reason that the bridge at Chiaiano shines out as an example of how a run-down area can be turned around, able to show how the most fragile and marginal realities actually constitute a city's most fundamental resources. The bridge "from the suburbs to the centre" has been opened up, now it's up to us to cross it.