Atlanta is a city where personal expression is an inescapable part of daily life. Amongst great cultural institutions and creative enterprises in the city is a symbol of the individual’s power to create and leave their mark: a century-old railway bridge connecting Inman Park and Cabbagetown, known as the Krog Street Tunnel.
The spot has been a canvas for graffiti since the mid-20th century, when working-class residents saw their opportunity to expose their visual art to increasing levels of traffic between the two neighborhoods. By the 1980s, community organizers initiated mural projects that covered the walls of the surrounding rail yard, and the building of the Atlanta BeltLine through the tunnel in the 2000s brought pedestrian traffic, acting as both creators and audiences for a growing graffiti culture.
In 2014, a group rented the tunnel for a private Halloween party. Local residents, angered by the attempt to privatize and monetize their public art space, painted the walls grey. This story became so well known because it encapsulates the vision of the tunnel: no matter how much private development it facilitated and commercial exploitation it inadvertently helped create, it still stands as a canvas for any individual, at any income level or social background, to use. Political opinions, messages to lost loved ones, and advertisements for aspiring musicians’ first singles all coexist as a collection of individual hopes and desires. This is why the Tunnel is so beloved.
Students in EPIC are creating 3D scans of the tunnel and 360-degree spherical images to capture a permanent record of the structure’s dynamically changing walls. It’s a twofold process that results in the students themselves creating a work of art and preserving the tenuous messages that emerge every day from spray paint cans. It is hoped that a digital repository of these snapshots will serve as a record of the community and its people in a time when individual expression holds ever less value.