The days are long gone of Atlanta being perceived as a bland, sprawling metropolis. Venture to the heart of the city to find a vibrant community of living, breathing art. Organizations like Living Walls perpetuate this street culture, with a mission to turn uninteresting, underutilized spaces into visual testaments to Atlanta’s thriving artist scene.
As an Old Fourth Ward resident, I have the privilege of being surrounded by incredible art that has been woven into the fabric of our uber-walkable community. With art hubs like the BeltLine just steps away, as well as nearby Krog Street Tunnel and Little Five Points, street art is accessible almost to the point of ubiquitousness.
While street art can be seen as more of a passive experience, I view it as a destination. In a visually-driven, Instagram-centric world, capturing and sharing street art has the power to culturally define a city and create stronger, more present urban communities. It’s also just a lot of fun to look at and be a part of.
Check out some of my favorite spots in Atlanta to join the movement.
Pullman Rail Yard
One of the most unique properties I’ve found in Atlanta, the Pratt-Pullman Rail Yard is an abandoned group of historic buildings sitting on over 26 acres in Kirkwood. Pullman was previously used as an engineering warehouse of sorts for agricultural machinery, as well as a rail car maintenance facility. Despite plans announced by the state in 2013 to restore Pullman Rail Yard, the 180,000 square feet of space still sits unused and in disrepair.
Although it’s technically private property, Pullman is a haven for urban explorers, photographers, and graffiti artists. It's also been featured in movies like The Hunger Games and the recent (and spectacular) Baby Driver. Almost every inch of the rusty, crumbling walls is covered in graffiti art; you can also find paint-splattered cars from a now-defunct train eerily hovering in the middle of the property.
To be perfectly honest, Pullman is perfect for killer Insta photos – the lighting and shadows are awesome for even the most amateur of photographers.
Note - it's technically illegal to visit Pullman Rail Yard, so enter at your own risk.
The Atlanta BeltLine
The BeltLine is one of the best places in Atlanta to get outside, commune with nature, and take in some of the best and most unique art in the city.
The BeltLine’s public art initiative selects a new crop of artists each year for both continuous and rotating, temporary exhibits. In 2015 alone, over 100 artists presented their work along 4 miles of the BeltLine, primarily concentrated around the Eastside Trail running from Ansley to Inman Park. All different types of art are present on the BeltLine, including massive murals, sculpture, photography, and live installations.
Some of my favorite art on the BeltLine is concentrated right near the Old Fourth Ward Skatepark, including one of the Tiny Doors – this small artist cooperative installs 6-inch doors throughout the city, one of which is on the BeltLine right by the Inman Park access point.
The best way to take in the art on the BeltLine is to walk. Start at the entrance adjacent to Krog Street Market, and walk the approximately two miles to the entrance to Piedmont Park at Monroe and Piedmont. My current favorite piece along the BeltLine is a massive Alice-in-Wonderland-esque mural on the outside of restaurant Two Urban Licks, as seen below.
Old Fourth Ward + Edgewood
The Old Fourth Ward neighborhood is full of street art. Multiple projects from Living Walls are situated in O4W, including an installation by local artist Cat Lanta (yes, he paints stylized cartoon cats all over the city) right across the street from my apartment.
An expected place to find amazing street art is a few blocks away off the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard, home of famous Atlanta watering holes like Church, Joystick Gamebar, and Sound Table. These murals are some of the most Insta-worthy spots that I’ve found in Atlanta, especially with a perfect skyline backdrop.
I tried to recreate this from a photo I originally found on Instagram. I don’t think I was nearly as successful.
Little Five Points
The entire neighborhood of Little Five Points is basically one giant art collective – from the murals welcoming you to L5P, to the paintings covering almost every restaurant and shop, just walking around is an artistic experience.
The most recognizable piece of L5P art is the entrance to The Vortex, a landmark Atlanta restaurant with a 20 foot high Laughing Skull to welcome you.
Venture down a few side alleys (not sketchy at all, right?) to see some of the coolest bits of hidden art, like a mural depicting famous singers from Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga.
Only in Atlanta do we name our grocery stores (Murder Kroger, anyone?) Disco Kroger, situated right by Lenox Mall off Piedmont Road in Buckhead, features a massive mural depicting a psychedelic disco scene.
The name Disco Kroger actually does have origins – a disco club called Limelight moved next door to this Kroger in the early 80’s, drawing a celebrity following from the likes of Andy Warhol and Rod Stewart. Supposedly after the club closed each night, hundreds would come to the 24 hour Kroger for a late-night snack.
A few remnants from Limelight still remain at Disco Kroger, including a disco ball hanging from the ceiling when you walk in.
Krog Street Tunnel + Cabbagetown/Reynoldstown
Perhaps the best area of Atlanta to see street art is at Krog Street Tunnel, connecting the edge of Old Fourth Ward & Inman Park with the neighborhoods of Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown.
The tunnel is incredibly popular amongst street artists and their admirers – it’s commonplace to find someone spray-painting a graffiti masterpiece in the middle of the afternoon while a rapper shoots a music video just steps away.
The art of the tunnel is also constantly changing, making for a new experience each time you visit. Old art is painted over to reveal fresh layers, like a new piece in honor of David Bowie during my most recent trip.
Venture out of Krog Street Tunnel onto Wylie Street, one of my personal favorite spots in the city for viewing and photographing street art. Walk up and down the street for a unique, almost tapestry-like narrative winding its way down to Reynoldstown, culminating in a defining painting celebrating the African-American history of this diverse neighborhood.