The Beltline: Atlanta’s Newest Cultural Phenomenon.


Before and After

Before and After (Credit: Atlanta Beltline Organization,

Just a few years ago, the Beltline possessed decidedly zero culture. Seriously, it was a jumble of abandoned railroads, empty parking lots, and deteriorating fields. Fortunately, to quote our most recent Nobel Laureate, “The times they are a-changin’.” In a matter of years, the Beltline has been transformed into a cultural epicenter for Atlanta.


As I documented in my previous description, the Beltline has taken empty space and tunnels and replaced them with a conglomerate of modern art, from statues to murals. Still, the culture of the Beltline expands so far beyond this.


An outdoor concert set up on the Beltline (Credit: Atlanta Insider Blog,

The Beltline has actually emerged as a popular spot for performance. The trail features several dozen performances every year, and, along with art pieces, the number continues to grow constantly. According to the Beltline’s website, the amount of art and performances increased from 30% in just one year from 2010 to 2011. On October 1 this year, the Beltline held a day of music event that included African dance and ragtime.


A picture of the Lantern Parade (Credit: Atlanta Beltline Organization,

And the path has developed its own traditions, namely the Lantern Parade. The September event had over 60,000 participants this year parading down the Beltline with many homemade lanterns.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most fantastic element of the Beltline’s culture comes from its everyday existence. Across the world, cities hold various special events that add to the culture of the town, yet a city is perhaps best defined culturally in what it has every day, like the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty. Atlanta, and its penchant for tearing down and rebuilding, has long struggled in this regard. But the Beltline has taken the lead in changing this aspect of the city. For one, the trail has taken the city’s love of replacement and change and fed on it. The organization rotates exhibits annually. While the Beltline always has the same feel of unity and museum, it never stays the same, like Atlanta.

Similar to the Beltline, the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago (Credit: Streetsblog Chicago,


Being new, the Beltline still has to develop a culture truly, yet it sets forth a culture for the entire city to aspire to. The rest of the county knows this city as a postcard for sprawl, for urban and suburban desolation and highway frenzy. Now, Atlanta is becoming a new kind of model, one for a future that permits cities, especially American cities, to revitalize and adapt, to become walker-friendly and less car dependent, and merge urban and natural environments. The culture of Beltline is far larger than simply the trail being built because it has spread everywhere in this city and across the country. To quote Mr. Dylan once more: “Beauty walks a razor’s edge/Someday I’ll make it mine.”



Several artworks have signs like this one, that give information on the piece and the artist. The top of the sign lists the artist’s name, then the name of the piece, and then a paragraph written by the artist that explains the piece. It adds to the art museum effect of the Beltline by offering information on the art.

Another Bench


We had a short discussion of benches when we looked at my first collage of artifacts, so naturally, I was on the lookout for another one. This one resembles something out of the Flintstones. It has curvy wood separated by three points by large stone circles. Going back to our classroom discussion, we talked about how benches are often made thinner to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them. For this bench, it is definitely slim, and the curves would prevent someone sleeping even more. As usual, I hope that this is simply an artistic choice.

Lantern Parade

This video offers a drone’s eye view of the Atlanta Lantern Parade that has become a tradition along the Beltline. The parade involves people crafting lanterns and marching them down the trail. Anyone can participate, and involvement has swelled to tens of thousands of people in just a few years. Even more watch. This video gives a brief tour of the parade and the Beltline, and boasts the area’s beauty.

Atlanta Union Station: Before and After


As most know, the Beltline is focused on the unused railroads that led to the city’s construction. Unfortunately, few know about the beauty destroyed when the rail stations were demolished. Atlanta’s main central depot, Atlanta Union Station, was built in 1853, razed by Union forces during the Civil War in 1864, rebuilt in 1870, then relocated in 1930. Passenger rail activity ended in 1971, and the city finally bulldozed the station in 1972. Pictured above, one can see the beautiful 1930 station (picture taken 1946). Below, one can see what it is today: a parking lot.

Map of My Trips to the Beltline

This map attempts to give an approximate account of my two walks along the Eastside Beltline. The routes that I walked on have been highlighted, and several artworks that I saw marked. However, all locations are just estimations and should not be relied on. Further, Google’s routing mechanism manipulates the walking paths slightly so that it may have thrown off the highlighted areas slightly. Nevertheless, the map should give readers a good idea of where I walked and where I found various images.

Built Environment Description 2 Draft.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my second walk along the Beltline, this time, joined by my classmates, two professors (Joe and Brennan), and several guests along the way (author Hannah Plamer and Beltline originator Ryan Gravel). This walk took place during late morning and early afternoon on a Thursday, as opposed to the first visit, which happened on a Sunday evening.

The weather distinguished this trip from the first strongest. The atmosphere boasted a brilliant sun and a delightful breeze, the kind of ideal mix of hot and cool that only the summer-to-fall transition can generate so perfectly. Though most potential visitors were probably working, the trail featured a much larger clientele than the rainy and dreary Sunday.

The breaths of runners still populated the air, but in greater magnitude, with the steps of each runner conglomerating into a background rhythm. Bells sang throughout the walk as bikers warned the flocks of walkers that they were passing them. The wonderful climatal torrent complimented the poems of Walt Whitman that we had read the prior night for American Literature exquisitely.

As my first description emphasized, art is everywhere on the Beltline. We walked through the part that I had visited before but also went to several areas that previously I had never seen. On one long length of fence hung a gallery of various photography projects. The subjects of these pictures spread across a vast diversity, from pictures of sports or refugees, and the rainbow of emotion: despair, joy, anger.

We observed several other benches similar to one that I wrote about before, except that these benches related only because they too are art, yet they display wildly different concepts. One was constructed of wood and round stone, like a sofa for the Flintstones. Another doubled as a musical instrument.

Even though the Beltline features similar amenities throughout its course, it manages to feel wildly different. As you walk, you will still see odd benches and different-sized sculptures, and so on, but they all feel so distinct that you barely realize that fact until you write a report on it afterward.