Situated in the westernmost city of the Florida panhandle, you’ll find a unique expression of art that has become an iconic landmark for visitors and locals alike: The Graffiti Bridge. On an old railroad overpass used by the CSX Transportation Company, off 17th Ave in Pensacola, Florida. Local kids, artists, and graffiti enthusiasts profess declarations of love, support, and individualism. As far back as 1935, people have been decorating the 17th Ave Railroad Trestle. Like Picasso said, just about anything you can imagine becomes a reality on the bridge. Throughout generations, the bridge has seen its fair share of tributes, holidays, encouragement, drawings, insignias, love notes, congratulations, sports themes, and class of “whatever year” messages.
One of the most amazing aspects of the bridge is that the artwork changes almost daily. It’s hardly ever constant, as at least one person is usually spotted tagging the bridge each night. The ever changing graffiti makes the artwork of the bridge feel fluid and alive. Many photographers love to capture the bridge as part of a daily series, in order to document all the changes of the bridge throughout the course of a year. While the bridge has become a local landmark, hosting engagements, wedding photos, and attracting tourists, photographers, and artists alike, from all corners of the country, it’s no secret that not every resident of Pensacola is proud of the expressive bridge. The town’s police seem to look the other way in regards to the graffiti, and chances are they did some art of their own pre-law enforcement days. Despite the fact that the entire bridge and the surrounding area is usually completely covered in art, it is illegal to paint anywhere other than the bridge exterior. You can be prosecuted for trespassing if you are found on the top of the bridge, or spraying any area other than the bridge itself, including trash cans, the road, the nearby parking area, the train tracks, etc.
While the bridge can be seen by some as an eyesore, as groups of locals against the graffiti tend to cover the current work with a fresh coat of white paint, even then they are still contributing to the magic of #TheGraffitiBridge. They are creating a fresh canvas for the next set of aspiring artists and taggers to display their work. The bridge cannot be considered in terms of individual artistic merit, but instead must be viewed as a whole. It is the growth, the transformation, and the statement of the bridge that is the real visionary. Graffiti artists have decorated the bridge throughout the years to show support for a variety of causes, from a memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, to the most current cause of raising awareness for childhood cancer. The 17th Ave CSX Railroad Bridge is more than just a common case of teenage vandalism, but is instead of living reminder of the desire of expression.