City Councilors Consider Action On Controversial Downtown Mural

Feb 8, 2018

A 124-foot long mural near Burlington’s downtown shopping mall has become a controversial subject. At the most recent city council meeting, a resolution was put forward to remove the artwork, arguing it does not reflect the city’s diversity.

The “Everyone Loves a Parade” mural along the Marketplace Alley, which connects the shopping district to the parking garage, was painted in 2012 to showcase the history of Burlington and the state of Vermont.  The mural was vandalized in October and called racist, prompting communities of color in the city to urge its removal.

Ward 7 Democrat/Progressive Councilor Ali Dieng, the only individual of color on the council, proposed looking into the legal ramifications of its removal.  “I did not see the many New Americans as well as African Americans and people with disabilities represented. It is really important for us to take the mural down. But knowing that there are some legal ramifications I am asking for the city attorney to get back to the council by March 12th.”

His efforts were supported during the public comment period by several individuals including Annie Lawson.  “This issue is about  a mural that proposes to tell the story of our community. Folks who are Abenaki, disabled, Black, Latino, New American, immigrant, LGBTQ, other people of color are not shown on this mural.”

 “I’m Chief Stevens. I’m the Chief of the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe. I want to make it clear.  We are a sovereign nation. We are not victims. We would like to promote education and cultural opportunities which I think Burlington has a unique position to be able to afford that including the mural.  It’s problematic just from the fact that it doesn’t represent Abenaki people. But I want to find ways to work with you guys in promoting our culture in a positive manner.”

East District Councilor Democrat Richard Deane says the community needs time to work together to resolve the underlying issues the mural debate highlights.  “I don’t believe that the mural accurately or fully reflects who we are as a community or the history of all of us as immigrants to this place, because we are all immigrants other than the First Nations peoples. Taking the mural down without a robust process doesn’t support or motivate the opportunity for open dialog and deeper understanding.”

Mayor Miro Weinberger said the mural was a well-intentioned effort to upgrade the alleyway when it was envisioned in 2009 and 2010.  “There are issues of artist rights and public art values and issues of government overreach here.  It’s not even clear what the city owns and there’s a lot to be sorted through here. And I think we should support the idea that as a next step we get this counsel from the city attorney.  We can continue parallel to that having some additional communication about how we move forward.”

Clauses ordering the mural removed were deleted and councilors approved on a 7 to 5 vote a resolution asking the city attorney to report back to the council by March 12th on the legal ramifications of removal.