As an artist and Cabbagetown resident for 9 1/2 years, the Krog Street Tunnel is forever changed in my mind. The inaugural Krog Steet Masquerade Ball took place last Saturday night, October 25th, in what had previously been to me simply a way in and out of my neighborhood; a dank, possibly dangerous, definitely edgey, passageway.
For those of you reading this who aren't familiar with Atlanta or this area in particular, the Krog Street Tunnel runs under the CSX rail line connecting Cabbagetown and Inman Park. It's known for its street art; an ever-changing concrete canvas of graffiti. It smells bad and gets flooded when it rains--not a place you want to hang out for any length of time so my first reaction to the idea of a party in the Krog tunnel was "you're kidding."
"If you don't believe in magic, you can't see it" was one of the many sayings that adorned the floor and walls of the tunnel prior to the "paint-out" that took place a few days before the event. Maybe it's because I tend to walk with my head down (at least through the tunnel) that this is what I most noticed but it's my take-away. The paint out was a protest by the graffiti artists (and their supporters) who were upset that the ticketed event was profiting someone other than the artists whose work provided the backdrop. These artists don't intend to make money off of what they do and that, presumably, was their point; that street art is for everyone for free and NOT FOR SALE.
I understood the neighborhood's concerns about closing the bridge for 36 hours and the potential traffic/parking problems (of which there were none that I know of) but this particular part of the protest surprised me. The protestors could not see the beauty of exposing what they do to a broader audience in a different context; they did not understand that they were going to be part of a performance piece. I felt that they had "cut their nose off to spite their face."
It was a thing of beauty when The Black Sheep Ensemble street band made their way through the tunnel electrifying the masked audience and bringing the party to life. I'm a painter, not a videographer, so my apologies for the video quality but if you can't imagine a party here, it will give you some idea. For this moment, what was on the walls didn't matter and I forgot I was in the Krog Street Tunnel.
Maybe I'm too close to be objective. I live a block and a half from the bridge, my boyfriend is a member of The Black Sheep Ensemble and I make my living as an artist. What is art? Who is it for? How is it consumed? I've been consumed with the controversy and trying to understand it. I should be in my studio making art right this minute and yet here I am going on and on about something that is yesterday's news. Except it's not. Because I can't drive or walk through the tunnel ever again without thinking about all this, without seeing. I'm invested. The good news is that the tunnel is the cleanest I've ever seen it and the artists have put fresh marks on this "iconic" place.