Sunday, May 1, 2011

Street Art Tunnel

Posted by Chelsea McKee, CABBAGETOWN, ATLANTA, GA – The Krog Street Tunnel is a small, unique Atlanta landmark, located at the junction of the Old Fourth Ward and Cabbagetown neighborhoods. The tunnel is covered in graffiti, political statements, event announcements, gang symbols, and murals, all of which are constantly changing. The result is a mosaic of layer upon layer of organic street art and speak.  But few people who come to Atlanta for conferences or for tourist purposes ever get to experience this palimpsest -- all they see is the antiseptic, Starbucks-littered Midtown Business District. 

Like the tunnel itself, Cabbagetown is a mosaic of contradictory landscapes. It’s funky, hippy, yuppie, artsy, racially diverse (yet racially bounded), run-down, and revitalized. Cabbagetown was originally built in the late 1880’s to house the people who worked at the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill. When the mill shut down about a century later, the neighborhood began to decline. In the late 1980s, local artists, grassroots activists, and urban farmers started moving in. Then came the private real estate developers. As townhouses and lofts began to emerge so did the yuppie presence. By the early-2000s the neighborhood was well into the gentrification process.  And today, tensions remain readily apparent between the newcomers, the homeowners and renters who have called this their neighborhood for generations, and the gangs who still claim Cabbagetown as their turf. It’s a neighborhood full of interdictorary spaces, including empty lots, run-down slum lord buildings, and luxury lofts. This presence is matched by that of the hip and cool tattooed grittsters, as well as the crunchy granola post-cool wanna-be earthies. And no place expresses this more than the Krog Street Tunnel.

But the tunnel is not a place of violent conflict. It’s not known for muggings, murders, carjackings, or any other sort of crime unless you count street art and street speak as criminal activities. It is instead a place where all sorts of people from diverse backgrounds who lay claim to the neighborhood come to express themselves with paint. In fact, the tunnel has become such an icon of street art and political activism that local officials have given up trying to white wash it. When I was taking pictures of the tunnel in mid-April there was a posting called “Stop the Hate”. This referred to the Arizona-type immigration bill that the Georgia legislature was pushing. It passed not long after. Two days later another posting had covered “Stop the Hate”. It was about an upcoming performance art event featuring people dressed as rabbits. That’s just the way the Krog Street Tunnel works.

Chelsea McKee is a senior at Georgia State University and a major in Managerial Science. She can be reached at

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a fascinating place.