Questionable Authority: Seven Days Staff Have Thoughts on Church Street Mural | Live Culture

Questionable Authority: Seven Days Staff Have Thoughts on Church Street Mural

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Detail of "Everyone Loves a Parade!" by Pierre Hardy - FILE: KATIE JICKLING
  • File: Katie Jickling
  • Detail of "Everyone Loves a Parade!" by Pierre Hardy
“Everyone Loves a Parade!” Lately, not so much. When the Church Street Marketplace mural of that title was unveiled in 2012, the work — by Québécois artist Pierre Hardy — was lauded for its inventiveness, meticulous detail and “Where’s Waldo?” aesthetic. As the CSM website exclaims: “Grand Master Samuel de Champlain leads the charge as the scene depicts an evolution in time along Church Street. Notable and everyday Burlingtonians, downtown businesses, and iconic images of the past 400 years are distinguished through overflowing illustrations.”

But sensibilities have evolved since those Norman Rockwell-ish days of 2012. Today, many see the mural’s rendering of 400 years of Vermont history as a toxic whitewash. City councilors and Mayor Miro Weinberger have called for the creation of a task force to consider ways of replacing the mural with one that’s more inclusive and representative of the Queen City’s racial and ethnic makeup.

And, perhaps, one that looks less like a placemat in a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Indeed, absent from recent rancorous mural discussions has been any assessment of the work’s artistic merits. For that, we called upon Seven Days’ arts and culture staff to weigh in.


Beyond its blinding whiteness, the “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural is objectionable because:

KEN PICARD: Canadian muralist Pierre Hardy culturally appropriated bricks and mortar as his artistic medium, which were actually invented by the ancient Egyptians in 2500 B.C. How about using some native stone, people?!

SADIE WILLIAMS: It is a poor imitation of trompe l’oeil. Please Google trompe l’oeil and look at the myriad examples of incredible works in chalk by street artists. You’ll reconsider ever using that term to describe that monstrosity of squashed perspective.

RACHEL JONES: Isn’t blinding whiteness in form and content plenty?

DAN BOLLES: Everyone does not, in fact, love a parade.

JORDAN ADAMS: It works on a false assumption. At best, people tolerate parades.

What features, if any, from the existing mural would you save and incorporate into the new one?

KP: I’d keep the images of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, but maybe not eating vanilla ice cream.

SW: I would save the paint scraped from the walls and grind it into a fine dust to be kept in a jar at the foot of the new mural. Visitors could take a handful and scatter it in the wind and pray for the death of the patriarchy. Also, there would be face masks because you really shouldn’t inhale that stuff.

RJ: Maybe Lois Bodoky, the (now deceased) Hot Dog Lady. Does anybody know what she thought of the mural?

DB: All of the weirdly non-Vermont stuff. Like ’70s Elvis in front of Ben & Jerry’s, for example. However, for the sake of historical accuracy, he should really be touched up as Fat Elvis.

JA: I would save the wall itself — lest Banana Republic’s apparel be exposed to the elements.

The current mural commemorates the sesquicentennial of Samuel de Champlain’s 1609 “discovery” of Lake Champlain. What should the new mural commemorate?

KP: The fur-bearing trout of Lake Memphremagog, Vermont’s earliest documented case of “fake news.”

SW: The death of the word “discovery” as a term to describe Europeans putting flags on stuff that indigenous folks already knew about. Most people are on board with that.

RJ: A renewed commitment to not Disney-fying Church Street and, you know, history.

DB: Did you know that there are two stories of Ethan Allen’s death in 1789? The first is that he had a stroke. But the other is that he — wait for it — fell out of a sleigh, drunk. Obviously, historical accuracy is not paramount when it comes to the mural, so, whether or not it’s true, we should probably commemorate the founder of Vermont dying in the most Vermont way possible.

JA: The day Trump got impeached. It obviously hasn’t happened yet, but it might have by the time we sort out this whole mural thing.

How should the next artist(s) be chosen?

KP: A round-robin pentathlon involving arm wrestling, dramatic haiku readings, competitive stir-frying, speed-cartooning and beer pong.

SW: By a group of preschool kids from Burlington’s various neighborhoods. They’ll have to look at it longer than we will.

RJ: Very carefully.

DB: I suggest we start by scouting talent at Paint & Sip nights throughout greater Burlington.

JA: A hot air balloon race around the world!

The current mural was funded by donations from prominent Vermonters and local businesses. How should the new mural be paid for?

KP: With a 1 percent sales tax on every loaf of white bread.

SW: Honestly, the same way. But maybe they could just pick a really great local artist, and not treat the mural like an advertisement. Vermont has a law against billboards.

RJ: That’s a really good question.

DB: Someone got paid for that thing?

JA: Um … by the previous artist?

The next artwork to decorate the Church Street alleyway need not be a mural. What other art installations can you envision for that space?

KP: A scratch-and-sniff tour through Vermont’s dairy country would be an olfactory sensation!

SW: I’d really like a public ball pit.

RJ: A miniature version of the moving walkway at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport would be pretty cool.

DB: Any work whose artistic importance merits placement in an alley leading to a parking garage that usually smells like urine and cigarettes.

JA: Motion-sensitive holographic raccoons and squirrels that break into song and dance when someone walks through the alley. We should get Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the music!

Complete this sentence: “Thirty years from now, that Church Street alleyway will be…”

KP: Reeking of urine and weed.

SW: Underwater.

RJ: A noodle shop for blade runners. (Edward James Olmos is already there.)

DB: An alleyway off Sinex Boulevard, as Church Street will be renamed in 2020 by proclamation of Mayor Miro Weinberger.

JA: Irrelevant, because we’ll all be living inside computers.

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