Pat Greene is leaving Orlando, and we don’t want to talk about it. But we have to

Pat Greene and friends in front of the Gallery at Avalon Island
Pat Greene and friends in front of the Gallery at Avalon Island Photo by Anna McCambridge-Thomas

In Life of Pi, author Yann Martel writes, "I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye." Last issue, we tipped our fur-trimmed hats farewell to Harriett Lake, and in the two years since Pulse we've had to mourn the untimely departures of far too many other members of our creative community. This week, we sadly say "See you later" to an irreplaceable instigator of Orlando's arts scene, but at least Patrick Greene isn't shuffling off this mortal coil – he's just getting the hell out of the country.

Last Thursday, during Greene's final show as curator of the Gallery at Avalon Island, friends and fellow artists raised glasses of champagne while Commissioner Regina Hill read Mayor Buddy Dyer's official proclamation declaring July 19, 2018, as "Patrick Greene Day." It's a fitting capstone for the Florida career of a man whose beloved grandmother Edee Greene, a pioneering feminist journalist, has her own day in Broward County. And while Greene may have appeared uncomfortable with the outpouring of praise, he's more than earned it with artistic contributions across four decades that helped shape our town's cultural character.

Listing every local artistic project Pat Greene ever spearheaded – whether as a visual artist, radio host, writer, producer, director or promoter – would easily fill this page and then some. I first mentioned Greene in this column when covering the Art for Haiti charity auction he organized in 2010 with Greg Leibowitz, and he really caught my attention in 2012 with "Walk On By," a citywide project for which my wife installed cardboard monsters and choreographed dancers along the Mills 50 sidewalks. The following year, I personally participated in his 2013 TrIP (Transit Interpretation Project), which involved me riding a Lynx Route 50 bus from downtown to Disney.

Greene's résumé, which ranges from Nickelodeon props assistant and promotions manager of the Peacock Room to program director of Urban ReThink and member of the Civic Minded Five music presenting group, reads like a rogues' gallery of Orlando most-missed former venues. But when I asked what he regarded as his greatest accomplishment – TrIP, Walk On By, or perhaps luring Ed Woodham's worldwide phenomenon Art in Odd Places here – Greene simply said, "I don't know if there's a particular thing [but] there's a theme of community, and staying relevant to the time we live in."

Five years ago, Greene assumed the role of resident curator of the Gallery at Avalon Island, filling the historic Rogers Building with innovative installations and eclectic entertainment. Early this year, owner Ford Kiene donated the 132-year-old property to the city, with the stipulation that it be used for cultural purposes until at least 2038. As a result, the Downtown Arts District is vacating the building they currently occupy at 29 S. Orange Ave. (though SAK will stay put on the second floor), and moving CityArts Factory into the recently rechristened Rogers-Kiene Building in November. Rotating guests artists will curate the gallery during the remaining months, and the In-Between series Greene launched is scheduled to continue as well.

"There's a thousand reasons why we'll miss him, and maybe more," Downtown Arts District executive director Barbara Hartley told me at Greene's last Third Thursday. "One of the reasons I'll miss him is because he always has new ideas, he's so well read and he shares them all. Sometimes it's exhausting ... but he has such a great ability to connect with people he doesn't know. There aren't a lot of people who are good with literature, music and art; Pat can do it all."

CityArts' relocation also required Greene's removal from Avalon Island's upstairs apartment (it will be used for artists-in-residence), which resulted in a radical reimagining of his life. He's off to Costa Rica, where he'll run a bed & breakfast in a town populated by ex-pats. Ever politically engaged, the former Orlando mayoral candidate is brutally honest about the motivation behind his destination: "Getting out of Trump's America," he admits. "They may not let me back in."

The one thing Pat will miss most about Orlando? "The people. My people," he says, gesturing half-sardonically at the longtime friends around him. "Not him. Not you. Other people." And how do I really feel about watching Greene sail off into the sunset? What kind of void does his departure leave, and is anyone here capable of filling his voluminous shoes? All I can do is quote Pat's 2004 mayoral campaign slogan: "I don't want to talk about it."


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