Resurgens Requiem: Creative Placemaking in Krog Street Tunnel

Renowned for its colorful street art, murals, tags, and stickers, Krog Street Tunnel is legendary as a hub for visual artistic expression in Atlanta. For one afternoon, however, it took on a special new role. It became a gritty, yet vibrant backdrop, and its unique acoustics served as an accompanying instrument for a spectacular acapella musical showcase by the Spelman College Glee Club.

The performance, entitled “Resurgens Requiem,” was inspired by “The Mile Long Opera,” a similar placemaking performance event in 2018 on New York City’s Highline. It also drew upon the legacy of Atlanta’s diverse choral traditions championed by Choral Conductor Robert Shaw, the Grammy-winning conductor who had a decades-long tenure with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Spelman Glee Club singer in Krog Tunnel (Glee Club members were staged on both sides of the tunnel (photo: Ivan Schustak, South Arts)

The 33 singers, dressed in long black dresses and pearl necklaces, were staged alongside the pillars of the tunnel on both sides, with Dr. Kevin Johnson conducting from the roadway portion of the tunnel. The listening audience joined Dr. Johnson in the street, which was temporarily closed to vehicle traffic. Tyrone Webb, Community Arts Director for the Georgia Council for the Arts, noted that the event coincided with the Glee Club’s centennial year. “I’m so pleased to work with Spelman, an HBCU that is an institution and part of the rich legacy of Atlanta, and to have this event be part of the Glee Club’s 100-year celebration is very special.”

Glee Club members were staged on both sides of the tunnel (photo: Ivan Schustak, South Arts)
“Why choral music? Because it allows also this communion of people that dignifies their relationship to one another, as well as to what mankind might be.” – Robert Shaw
The six hymns were chosen from the repertoire of their upcoming spring tour. Glee Club President Gabrielle Campbell said, “it was beautiful to sing in this space, with the sound of the tunnel and the beautiful art on the wall – it really was a reflection of the music. It was fulfilling to have so many people from the community come out and experience this artistic expression.” Adding to the experience, the bustle of the city churned unabated as the music performance unfolded. The occasional sound of a dog barking or a motorized scooter in the tunnel continued in the background, along with the din of passing MARTA trains.

Spelman College Glee Club Director Dr. Kevin Johnson

This site-specific choral performance activation, was planned as part of the 4-day Creative Placemaking Summit: South and Appalachia, presented by South Arts, Creative Placemaking Communities, Atlanta BeltLine Inc., Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association, and Georgia State University’s EPIC Pop Culture Program. The summit is a gathering of artists, administrators, community leaders, planners, designers, and other professionals exploring models at the intersection of arts, cultural heritage, and public policy.

The BeltLine is a testament to the power of placemaking and placekeeping as it seeks to create a legacy of inclusion by encouraging historically excluded populations to participate in Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibitions. Programmatic elements, particularly with regards to the arts, are carefully considered with a focus on recognizing and preserving the history of the communities it touches. Lynnette Reid, the BeltLine’s Vice President of Planning, Engagement and Art, said of the event, “the BeltLine not only serves as a connective tissue physically, but also demonstrates how a reimagined railroad can be used to honor history and the community. This special event emphasizes the importance of preserving creative spaces and engaging in creative placemaking.” Tyrone Webb added, “creative placemaking is a strategy that engages community issues or challenges utilizing the arts or some type of creative endeavor. This particular activation is how we are engaging the community in a beloved place that’s historic, and also popular with tourists and residents.”

Krog Street Tunnel links the Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, and Inman Park neighborhoods and is the access point for the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail to traverse Hulsey Yard. Dating to pre-World War I, the 500-ft. tunnel has become a symbolic center of artistic creativity and a visual ‘sounding board’ for Atlanta’s citizens. Event organizers felt its contemporary cultural and historical relevance, ideal acoustics, and clear sight lines made it the perfect setting for this immersive public performance opportunity.

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