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Arts & Culture

TrIP shows humans of Orlando at Gallery at Avalon Island

The public transit-inspired project opens its portrait show Thursday

Photo: Cooper Reep, License: N/A

Cooper Reep

Transit Interpretation Project: The Documentary Portrait Group

opens 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21 | through Sept. 13 at Gallery at Avalon Island, 39 S. Magnolia Ave. | avalongallery.org | free

The reality of life in Orlando is, brother, if you ain’t got a car, you gotta hoof it or wait for the bus. The Transit Interpretation Project has been getting local artists and writers on Lynx buses and SunRail trains since its inception, and the Gallery at Avalon Island will mark a milestone with its portrait exhibit opening Aug. 21. TrIP, a collaborative outgrowth of Pat Greene’s Corridor Project, is an ongoing series of writing and artwork examining and exploring public transportation in Orlando. The project has no definite end date; its creative output lives mostly on a blog (transitinterpretationproject.com), but periodic displays of the work pop up in galleries and spaces around town.

When this project quietly launched last autumn, I waited a long time to see it shift into higher gear. At first, I wanted TrIP to be more in-your-face and ask big questions, in a typical artist’s stance outside the system. But TrIP has approached its goals from a different angle than I ever expected, evading official attention by staying low-key. By participating in TrIP myself, I learned a lot more about the project’s true objectives, and am glad to report it is reaching cruising speed.

Having taken the bus in a great many cities in this nation (and quite a few in other nations), I’m always struck by the deadening effect of the Orlando bus experience. Woebegone bus stops, many without shelter or seating; lumbering, huge-wheeled giants going nowhere I need to go, and getting there slower. There’s a bus culture with no stigma in other cities where I’ve lived – including Tampa, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Honolulu. Here, the bus culture seems a twilight zone of the hard-working, unloved and unwatched.

My 10-year-old son, Cooper, and I took the Lynx 50 down to Disney one night, kibitzed with other riders and hassled the driver a little. Cooper analyzed the engine and got eyed by Daisy, a 10-year-old girl from England. It rounded out his perception of his own city a little, and mine a lot. The result was a TrIP blog post (“Searching for the soul of the tropical city”) and a sculpture, “Bus Bench,” which we built together.

Greene has nurtured an open group of local artists and writers now expressing deeper connections to Orlando’s people, and slowly, quietly, Orlando’s soul is coming out a little: the man who asked Jessica Earley to teach him how to pray; the mysterious boy with the shaved head in Destiny Deming’s post; Terry Thaxton’s moving memory of her youth, triggered by a bus ride back to the old hood; the man wearing outrageous blue swimming trunks photographed by Greg Leibowitz; and of course the marvelous GTFS graphic of the bus system itself by Nathan Selikoff. These are a few of TrIP’s Orlando portraits; in the show opening Thursday, there are lots more.

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