November 24, 2020

Goodbye Graffiti Highway

Centralia is the site of a devastating coal mine fire that started in 1962 and still burns underground to this day. The fire forced the population from 1,000 residents in 1980 to five in 2017. Centralia is also home to the famous Graffiti Highway. 

            Graffiti Highway is located at PA-61 (Destroyed), Centralia, PA 17921. The highway was abandoned after the coal mine fire and is now home to millions of graffiti drawings. 

The fire burns beneath as you walk the highway. In 2010 and 2013 there was smoke seen coming up from the cracks in the highway.

To me, Graffiti Highway is absolutely fascinating, I see it as more than a destroyed highway left behind. It is somewhere that everyone can be an artist. 

It is a wide-open canvas. Everyone and anyone can come, whenever they’d like, to express themselves. There are so many stories embedded in that destroyed highway. So many feelings, so many thoughts, so many memories, so many tales to tell, it is a place to just be yourself. You don’t have to answer to anyone, no one is there judging you. 

Everyone is just there to be unapologetically themselves. 

No one is worried about disappointing anyone, pleasing anyone, or answering to anyone. Artists can be in their purest state, clearest mindset, or most unfocused, foggy mindset. They don’t have to listen to people telling them what to do. 

I felt as if I was walking on so many different heartaches and celebrations. The art was never-ending. The colors were vibrant and dull. There was everything you could imagine; from anger to joy. You can feel the emotion the artists left behind. You can feel it as you’re walking. As you just take it all in, it will leave an imprint on your mind. Some things you could wish you never saw, others you’ll want to remember forever. 

Many people may not look into the art as I do, you can just see it as a place of destruction and loss. People did lose their hometown. It is heartbreaking. Despite all the destruction and horror, others gained a place of security. 

Somewhere they can go to be free. 

There were no rules & no guidelines to follow. Nothing telling you what kind of art you are allowed to do. 

Although, while walking around the air isn’t the best, or even remotely healthy. 

You can taste the dust and cement. Your hair and clothes will be dusty. You’ll be dirty, muddy, and feel like you need to shower right away. 

But, I say it’s worth it. Temporary dirt and dust, for a lasting memory. 

During the day, there are probably hundreds of people who walk the abandoned graffiti highway. People come and walk their dogs & their kids in strollers despite the heavyweight of the polluted air. Children of all ages seemed to hang out on the highway, teenagers and even adults went out on a date.

If you decide to walk around outside of the graffiti highway, you will smell the fire underneath the ground. The air smells sort of like gasoline or a BBQ went wrong. 

I hope many of you were able to enjoy the graffiti highways’ unique beauty before it closed.

As of April 8th, 2020 Graffiti has been buried and closed forever.

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