How this museum displays graffiti cut from decommissioned rail cars

freight train graffiti
Posted at 8:40 PM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-20 20:04:56-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A showcase has just arrived for art created along rail roads. The people behind the work are quick to tell you: it's dangerous and could land you in big trouble. A place in Nashville is giving new voice to an underground culture.

"I got to know what kind of dangers I was up against, and they are many," said a man who preferred to be referred to as Ichabod. "I feel driven to do this. It can be thought of as an addiction. I do not recommend anyone else try this themselves. I do graffiti on freight trains. Spray paint, that is first and foremost the tool of the graffiti writer. Graffiti is illegal and dangerous, and so I prefer to conceal my identity. The highest visibility spots to do graffiti are the riskiest, and you have the shortest amount of time to get in and out and do your thing before you're going to be arrested. Nobody should be trespassing on the train tracks. Nobody should be on trains or on railroad property that doesn't know exactly what they're doing. I am an unusual individual."

The inherent rebelliousness of this is what has drawn Ichabod to graffiti writing for 25 years. He didn't think what he's done would end up in a museum.

"We're curating art," said Robert Hendrick of Rail Yard Studios.

Hendrick's business takes old things from railroads and turns them into furniture. Now, his Graff Museum is showcasing graffiti cut from decommissioned rail cars.

"Our goal is to catch cars as they're going to scrap, so this art is going away," he said.

"The fundamental essence of graffiti is writing your name and saying, 'hey, I'm here,'" Ichabod added.

"It's phenomenal the scale they operate and the beauty they achieve with such a relatively crude instrument as a spray can," said Hendrick.

The plan is to do open houses at the Graff Museum to showcase the work every quarter and raise donations for the addiction recovery and mental health treatment for some in the freight-graffiti community.

Ichabod believes he's done 6,134 pieces, but he doesn't know how long can continue. There's the constant risk of being arrested.

"Every year, I tell myself I'm going to retire, and I don't take more than a few days or a week off before I feel the energy and want to get back out there again," he said. "It is a younger man's game, but I'm going to keep going as long as I have the hands and legs to get out there and do it."

For more on the Graff Museum, visit here.

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