In many former Eastern Bloc countries, wrecking balls and social progress took out hulking Communist buildings and militaristic Cold War structures after the Berlin Wall fell. In Tirana, the mountain-framed capital city of Albania, the government and local artists have chosen more vibrant and unusual ways to blaze their way out of years of dictatorship and economic depression. Crumbling, gray Ottoman-era mansions have been painted in shades of Creamsicle orange and rain slicker yellow; drab, Stalinist mid-rises serve as outsized canvases for jewel-toned Cubist abstracts or rainbow stripes. Much of the credit goes to former mayor Edi Rama, a painter-turned-politician (now Albania’s prime minister), who began a citywide beautification effort in 2000 that saw artists decking out building facades and city workers planting 55,000 trees and bushes in public spaces.