Krog Tunnel buffed in protest of Masquerade ball
'there's this attitude that exploits artists, undervalues their work, and undercompensates them'
In an act of protest last night, artists and residents at odds with the organizer of a new event being held inside the Krog Street Tunnel stripped the iconic underpass of its most well-known feature: its graffiti.
Around 9:30 p.m., a handful of protestors began buffing the tunnels walls. Over the course of 90 minutes, nearly 100 people arrived at the Cabbagetown underpass with paint buckets and rollers to "whitewash" the inside of the tunnel with gray paint.
The decision to cover up Krog Tunnel's artwork comes days before the Krog Masquerade, an up to 2,000-person "sultry underground event," will take place inside the tunnel. The ticketed event will limit access to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists for much of this weekend. If new works aren't painted by event organizers or the gray walls covered up, Masquerade attendees will be donning masks inside a temporarily drab tunnel.
The buffing wasn't entirely unexpected. Many Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown residents grew upset during permitting process with Randall Fox of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces, the event organizer, and city events officials. The neighborhood association and NPU recommended city officials not issue the gala's permit. Local artist Catlanta had recently teased on Twitter about covering up the graffiti to ensure that Masquerade organizers didn't benefit from the tunnel's ever-changing canvas of art.
Cabbagetown resident Ryan Splitlog, one of the many people to help with the whitewashing, says the high-priced Masquerade would "spoil a lot of the authenticity of the tunnel" and cut off a main north-south artery for the surrounding neighborhoods.
"People see the Krog Tunnel as part of the community and not an event space," Splitlog says. "To see it cut off for basically the whole weekend, and for the neighborhood associations to not approve of any of the plans, it seemed like it warranted us to come out here and at least spoil the fun."
Local artist Ashley Anderson says he disagreed with the city's decision to green light the Masquerade ball even though nearby neighborhoods voted for the city to reject the application. As an artist, he feels that Masquerade ball organizers are exploiting artists by trying to make money off the walls they painted. Last night's protest, he says, sends a clear message that artists deserve better treatment.
"It's not possible to hunt all these people down and offer them royalties," Anderson says. "At the same time, there's a certain kind of ambience that only this space has. And Randall Fox is charging admission for that? He's riding the biggest pair of coattails ever. Even though Atlanta has come a long way as far as its arts culture, there's this attitude that exploits artists, undervalues their work, and undercompensates them."
For longtime graffiti artist David B. Well, who says he initially felt "weird" about covering up other graffiti, the protest was as an act of solidarity with other fellow artists. Once the Masquerade ball happens, he says some artists intend to repaint the entire Krog Tunnel, effectively reclaiming it for themselves and the surrounding communities.
"I had to come out," he says. "I've started getting out of graffiti. So I'm into the fact that I got to come down and paint this. We're soon going to do a huge collaborative mural. As soon as the Krog masquerade's over, we're going to come here and do our best work and make it one beautiful gorgeous piece."
According to Well, protest organizers are figuring out details regarding when they will repaint the underpass.
CL has reached out to Fox for comment about the buffing of the Krog Tunnel. In a Facebook post last night, Fox referred to the protestors as "bullies" who whitewashed the tunnel in the "darkness of the night."
"It's simply a shame that any neighbor, Atlantan, or artist, street artist or otherwise, would think that whitewashing the Krog Street Tunnel is somehow taking a stand or will make an impact on The Krog Masquerade," he wrote. "It reminds me of kids that try to punish everyone around them, but simply end up punishing themselves. Essentially, by whitewashing the tunnel, they just generated more exposure and buzz for the event (thank you) and made a blank canvas for other artists to create."
We've included some more photos after the jump:
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- Max Blau
- #Krogisnotforsale: Dozens of artists and residents painted over Krog Street Tunnel's iconic graffiti and left only a single hashtag.