The 17th ave trestle, affectionately known by locals as “The Graffiti Bridge,” is steeped deeply in Pensacola culture. It has been called an eyesore, primitive social media site, and most recently has made its way into the T.T. Wentworth museum as one of the “Icons,” that has shaped Pensacola’s local culture and traditions for the last hundred years.
On the surface, it is just an old train trestle, but in the murky waters of local legend, The Graffiti Bridge is a force to be reckoned with. It has been called a local legacy, it has been called “the most photographed landmark in Pensacola.”
But that is not my story. The story I want to tell has to do more with the nuts and bolts of the bridge. In particular, the etiquette of painting it. Anyone who has driven by, passed under, or climbed over TGB will notice two things about it immediately:
- It is relatively low clearance
- It is covered in Graffiti
The Graffiti Bridge has been painted by the public of Pensacola since 1935, and each painting has formed a layer of paint coating the structure of the bridge. Over the years, Pensacola history, culture, and tradition have been stored in the layers of history on the skin of graffiti.
Now, nearly full century later, TGB has been called "Pensacola's first social media site,” because of the tradition of using the bridge to spread messages, make announcements, promote events or confess undying love. All of this and more can be found in a single trip to The Graffiti Bridge.
And so, what is the etiquette of painting the bridge. How do you decide what to paint over. What not to paint over. Do you start with a white background, or simply superimpose your image over the one underneath? This is a matter of preference. Each artist is different, and so has different methods for executing his or her art. The short answer is, there is no set standard.
Since The Graffiti Bridge is not regulated either by Escambia County or the City of Pensacola, there is no need to call and get permission to paint the bridge. This means there is no regulation or official guidelines for how long or short a time a certain piece stays.
Any piece, old or recent, is fair game to being painted over by the next enterprising artist, amature or proffessional, who want to paint the bridge. It is absolutely nothing personal for one artist to paint over another artists work. It is simply the way of The Graffiti Bridge.