Monday, November 20, 2006

Sidewalk Masterpieces

Today I’d like to introduce you to another neighborhood personality. His name is Amadeo, and he is the only sidewalk artist I know. You can't see him that well because I wanted to get the mural into the photo, and the sidewalk was narrow and full of people, making it really hard to get a decent picture.

As with any big city, in Rome there are a lot of people who will ask you for money on the street. Some are street performers, some play music on public transport and come around asking for money, some wash windshields or shine headlights, and some simply hold out a cup. Some are intrusive, others are innocuous.

Early on when I moved to Rome, after seeing all this, I quickly made a personal rule to never give money to any of them. It’s not that I wanted to be stingy; I actually consider myself a pretty generous person. It’s just that there are so many of them: how to distinguish who is more in need, and who isn’t? For me it was impossible, so the best policy was just not giving to anyone.

Well, I have to say that all that changed shortly after I started seeing Amadeo, or rather, his sidewalk art. On my walk home from work, I started to notice these colorful murals sketched in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the #8 tram depot. I was always so curious to find out who was sketching them. They seemed like free little gifts, left for us weary workers on our way home after a long day in the office.

Then one day after I started working from home, I walked by in the middle of the day and I saw a man standing by the mural, smiling and trying to chat with passersby. His smile is contagious. Many people glare at him or take pains to try to avoid him as they walk by, writing him off as “one of those crazy street people,” or maybe they are just taken aback by him trying to say hi to them. But I have to say, I was won over by his smile and friendly personality. I’ve never seen him harass people. And above all, I was touched by his artwork, which always has some title that I find very interesting. The one below is called “The Doors of Perception.”

That particular day I had my camera in my purse and since I had recently started my blog, I decided to stop and chat with Amadeo. Like I said, most people walk right by him, annoyed. He was so pleased that someone stopped by to admire his artwork. When I asked if I could take a few photos, he smiled and proudly posed by one of the murals. “Take all the photos you want!” he told me.

I gave him a couple euros, “for chalk,” I told him, and he beamed. I really enjoyed my brief encounter with this artist, and he always draws in the exact same spot: right in front of the end of the line of the #8 tram (just steps away from Caffè Camerino). So, when you’re getting your caffè completo, why not check and see if Amadeo has sketched out a new masterpiece? Maybe he’ll be standing by to give you a smile and a wave.

8 comments:

tati said...

WOW!Quel tratto di strada è davvero curioso....poco dopo Amedeo davanti all'entrata del teatro non so se ti è mai capitato di vedere....c'è una signora piena di cianfrusaglie che tiene in mano un cartello con su scritto "i'm poor but happy!". Davvero una bella lezione per tutte le persone che le passano davanti ad occhi bassi con un'espressione tra l'arrabbiato e l'infastidito...

gracie said...

In a little village near my hometown, there's an annual meeting in spring of all the north Italy streets artists, it usually is a very nice appointment! There's so much humanity in their works, I like them so very much!

Anonymous said...

Aw, what a sweet man. I would give him a few Euros too. I'll look for him next time I am in town.

Moon Martini said...

:-)

Julie said...

Wish we had sidewalk artists around here. :-)

Donna said...

That is really beautiful. I am amazed that someone can do that on a sidewalk with chalk. I enjoyed this post.

Do you know if he washes his work off the sidewalk himself, or do city workers erase it?

tati said...

donna:may be the rain do it for him! (sorry if i wrote in a wrong way...i'm italian!)have a nice day :-))

FinnyKnits said...

That is just plain beautiful! I agree, like a little gift for you when you get off the train. I'd give him a little something too, for his effort and time.

When I used to commute via train (also when I was extra broke) I used to love the dudes that would play caribbean drums in the station during the winter. I looked forward to it every day and would leave them whatever I could spare in their cup. It was like getting a tropical vacation for a quarter.