College Studio Art Project Gone Wrong Shuts Down City

Desert highway in downtown Atlanta because of school art project. Photo: City of Atlanta Police Department Facebook Page.

For those of you who ever doubted the power of art, it can evidently empty out a major highway within minutes.

A Georgia State University art project brought 12 lanes of traffic to a screeching halt this Monday, as investigators and a bomb squad looked into a suspicious object taped along the 14th Street Bridge in downtown Atlanta.

The downtown interstate was completely shut down for two hours while crews investigated a strange device. A 911 call regarding the package was made early Monday afternoon. Initial police who were called on site said the item (a soda can covered in duct tape) resembled an explosive.

It turns out the spherical device was in fact a pinhole camera, fashioned for a solargraphy project monitoring the rising and setting of the sun over a 3 month period. Students were told to place their cameras in locations that would make for an interesting study of sunlight. The locations were arbitrarily selected by 18 students in the class. Some of the devices peppered around the city even had notes on them warning “this is a solargraphy project for my intro to studio class.”

After a brief investigation, no doubt to the thrill of those stuck in the traffic-jam, no explosives were found and the roads re-opened at 4 pm. Georgia State University has since apologized for the embarrassing traffic debacle. Atlanta police issued a statement that the student responsible for taping the item in such a public space could be charged with reckless conduct.

Alas, this is not the first time that an art project has created a public stir. In 2002, authorities also feared terrorism when faced with the experimental work of student Clinton Boisvert. The 25 year-old artist attached 37 black boxes, emblazoned with the word “fear,” onto walls in the Union Square subway station as part of a project for his class at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. The black boxes immediately caused widespread panic and police shut down the station for hours while a bomb squad investigated.

The Georgia State University student may suffer Boisvert’s fate; he was charged with reckless endangerment.

Curious to know what happened next? The story continues at College Art Project That Shut Down City May Land Art Student in Jail.


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