Freshly applied spray paint is still tacky, not quite dry. A newly tagged wall grabs ahold of your clothing, marking you as patron the of the arts, when you lean over the sticky wet railing, straining to see what has been shared, in neon splashes of color, on the far side of the cement support pillar. It’s dark in the Krog Street Tunnel, with uninterrupted cement walls on either side, and a railroad overhead, sitting atop more concrete.
What draws pedestrians, cyclists and motorists into the tunnel on this October day is layers and layers of paint. What makes a driver slam on his breaks ½ way through the tunnel, during rush hour, to avoid rear-ending the truck in front of him, is a constantly changing display of local art, by amateurs and professionals alike.
Elaborate murals are painted on the cement walls outside of the tunnel itself. There are hours and hours of work invested in each panel. The cement walls are a harsh, gritty sort of canvas, but the spray-paint takes hold without protest. Atlanta expresses diversity.
If you are unaware of Atlanta’s art scene you’ll get a quick introduction as you approach the tunnel, but the real draw of this constantly evolving street art is contained within. You’ll want to park your car and take your time exploring. The city’s tourism site Atlanta.net highlights the following reasons to check it out:
5 Reasons to Visit the Krog Street Tunnel (http://www.atlanta.net/things-to-do/krog-street-tunnel/)
- Free art! Local artists keep the tunnel alive with colorful artwork that is inspiring, creative, informative and entertaining.
- Great for photo opps. Don’t be surprised if a photo shoot or music video shoot is going on during your visit.
- Forget the newspaper. This is the place to visit to find shows going on in the area.
- Create a picture of your own to showcase your art to the city.
- Make an important announcement to the city…a birthday, important event coming up, maybe even a marriage proposal!
The many layers of paint plaster political messages on top of amateur attempts at fine art. Graphic representations of cultural discord overlay smiley faces and bunnies spray painting Easter eggs with “Love” and “Peace”. Painted scenes appear side-by-side, sometimes encroaching on a neighbor’s efforts. Eventually artists run out of space, and create a new layer. Pieces are both grungy and sleek, loudly colorful and quietly muted, a mere sketch and a carefully constructed finished piece.
The way one work threatens to swallow up the next, and the fact that both might be gone when you revisit the space, brings to my mind the Sherwin-Williams logo. More than a century old, the logo depicts a globe drenched in heavy, dripping red paint, pouring from a Sherwin-Williams paint can. Their catchphrase is “Cover the Earth”.
This leader in the paint industry has come under criticism by environmentalists – see David Griner’s piece: “Now It’s Sherwin-Williams’ Turn for a Much-Needed New Logo, Right? Or is the Earth-smothering icon actually brilliant?” Where’s the brilliance? This brand is immediately recognizable, even amongst those who have never purchased their paint! Well known for buckets of interior and exterior paint, in a rainbow of colors, the company also sells cans of aerosol paint favored by graffiti artists. . . and vandals.
Some might look at what’s going on in Krog Tunnel as vandalism – uncontrolled, unpredictable and uncensored. Imagine archeologists years from now peeling back layer after layer of paint, trying to make sense of the cultural story being told by hundreds of creative voices. Artists independently approach this “canvas”, choose their colors and make their mark. . . making a bold statement, or simply bringing beauty to this dark corner of the city. “Graffiti” and “Street Art” are definitely blurred together.
The community seems to have embraced the decorating of this public space. Is it art because it is welcomed, because it is encouraged, or is it only when it is commissioned or the artist is compensated that it becomes true art? This space is public, and artists paint freely. Some works are signed, others anonymous. Some of the paint lands on trashcans, park benches, overpasses and street signs declaring speed limits or construction warnings.
Back in 2014 artists protested plans to close the tunnel and use the space for a private party. Not wanting a private businessman to profit from the sale of tickets to the special event, artists covered the walls, railings and pillars with dull gray paint (http://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/grafitti-art-painted-over-well-known-atlanta-tunne/137252250). The tunnel didn’t lose its color for long – backup artists were on standby to repaint the tunnel.
Fall brings vibrant color to much of the United States, but in Atlanta’s Krog Street Tunnel the colors are changing year-round. The art spills further and further out of the tunnel, and across the city. Local and visiting artists have even created a week-long conference to bring color to otherwise neglected neighborhoods.
“Living Walls was born from a desire to add vibrancy and beauty to areas of the city falling into disrepair. . . A creative and entrepreneurial city since its inception, Atlanta is the perfect place for Living Walls to cause a wide ripple with just a single drop of inspiration.” (http://www.wheretraveler.com/atlanta/self-guided-tour-atlantas-famous-street-art )
You can’t miss the art as you drive through this part of town. The only question is how you appreciate it, and if you take the time to really look.
Join me on my next adventure,
Krog Street Tunnel: http://www.atlanta.net/things-to-do/krog-street-tunnel/
Sherwin Williams Paint: http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/now-its-sherwin-williams-turn-much-needed-new-logo-right-166701
Self-Guided Tour of Atlanta Street Art: http://www.wheretraveler.com/atlanta/self-guided-tour-atlantas-famous-street-art
Living Walls: http://livingwallsatl.com/
Artists Paint Over Krog Street Tunnel: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/grafitti-art-painted-over-well-known-atlanta-tunne/137252250