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Arts & Culture

Artists take a trip in the Transit Interpretation Project

They'll create responses to the commuter system in the form of dance, photographs, poetry and even fashion

Photo: Bethany Mikell, License: N/A

Bethany Mikell

Photo: Genevieve Bernard, License: N/A, Created: 2013:11:16 12:04:01

Genevieve Bernard

Photo: Moriah Russo, License: N/A, Created: 2013:11:07 22:28:39

Moriah Russo

Photo: Nathan Selikoff, License: N/A, Created: 2013:11:18 15:44:42

Nathan Selikoff

Fashion designer Bethany Mikell completed her trip Nov. 10, along with friends and fellow artists Kelly Berry and Megan Steward. Berry and Steward sketched many of the passengers who came and went along Link 8, which goes from the downtown LYNX Central Station to International Drive. The sketches will be embroidered on a dress Mikell is designing, which will feature a macramé detail of the shape of the route itself. She plans to have the dress modeled and photographed at locations along the route.

Artistic concerns aside, Mikell says their interactions with other passengers were very positive, with curious riders asking about the sketches and the project. One man, however, was extremely anxious at the beginning of their trip when the bus arrived five minutes late. If he missed the transfer to his next bus – the last one of the day – he would have had to walk two hours from the bus stop to his home.

Interactions between artists and the community are one part of why Greene started the project to begin with. The diverse group he has recruited includes established, emerging and amateur artists. Every piece created, every story told is an opportunity to see the city and the region from another perspective.

"If you're using mass transit in the South, there's a socioeconomic overlay to the perception of your presence there," says Dr. Julian Chambliss, associate professor of history at Rollins College and another TrIP participant. Chambliss, whose research has focused on early urban planning and urban history, is interested in the "real and perceived" urban experience, and he plans to explore how the perception policymakers have of the people who use mass transit affects their decision-making. "Perception is very important to the urban experience … If you perceive things to be a certain way, that enforces or supports policy to be a certain way. If you change perception, arguably you can change policy."

Greene encourages the artists to focus on the creative aspect without concern for where the works will be shown. While he hasn't dismissed the possibility of an exhibition of the work, he says the works will be documented on a website, and that the idea is more in line with site-specific art – performances and installations created for a specific location. Artists are free to display or publish or sell their work as they see fit, without confining their creativity to the parameters of a gallery space.

Statistics bear out Greene's assertion that the LYNX routes are underutilized. In 2012 the total average ridership was 85,000 passenger rides (one-way trips) per weekday, meaning between 95 and 97 percent of the population finds some other way to navigate Central Florida's sprawling expanse of asphalt. For contrast, the area served by New York City's Metro Transit Authority (which includes both the bus and subway system) has a population 8.5 times greater than that served by LYNX, but has a ridership 100 times greater. Public transit in Orlando, like many Southern metro areas with low population densities, isn't ingrained in everyday life for most of the population.

Greene hopes that the multiplicity of experiences and perspectives documented in the Transit Interpretation Project will encourage dialogue about the benefits and drawbacks of using public transit, while documenting "stories about the bus, Orlando and the people who live here."

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