Gina Carrera RIP
I love you Gina. I had great fun photographing you paint, and then photographing your two final murals:
“Rainforest” on Leahy Way, Burlington, VT
“Scenic” on So Champlain ST. Burlington, VT
Love to all.
ABOUT GINA CARRERA
Article Supplied by Artist for Burlington, VT Mural Book.
Murals: “Rainforest” on wall at Leahy Way off the Church Street Marketplace; scenic on wall of four-story apartment building near South Champlain Street pocket park; face of late artist Edward Hopper, across from Indigo Salon on Battery Street.
Artist: Gina Carrera
Sponsors: Burlington City Arts, public donations.
Gina Carrera of Essex is not only an accomplished artist, she’s a fighter for artistic rights and for the rights of people with disabilities. She has also fought for her own rights as an artist.
Carrera struggled long and hard to convince Burlington’s City Council to restore her 124-foot “rainforest” mural in Leahy Alley that connects the Church Street Marketplace with the city parking garage. Painted in 1992, the original mural was covered over in 2012 with another painting titled “Everyone Loves a Parade,” done by a Canadian artist named Hardy to mark the discovery of Lake Champlain 400 years earlier.
That mural was painted on wood panels that were then attached to the wall, covering Carrera’s imagery. It wasn’t long before some residents took exception to the new work, which depicted the smiling faces of dozens of notable Vermonters, past and present, nearly all of them white.
With the help of some interested parties in the city—including among them Burlington activist Albert Petrarca and a group calling itself the Off the Wall Coalition—Carrera was able to fight back. She and her allies charged in 2012 that a federal law, the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act, protected her mural and her rights to the art. She never gave up rights to the painting in writing—a requirement of that law for others to remove or alter it—and she argued that covering it up abridged her right to have it remain visible.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that the city agreed with Carrera and supporters and ordered the new mural removed. Once the panels were taken away, she spent a good part of the summer and fall restoring the mural underneath and adding more animals to the original ones. She took up work again in 2021 to complete the upgrade.
Carrera said she worked without pay on the original mural, using as much as $3,000 worth of donated paint. She said she delighted in watching people discover some of the creatures hidden in the foliage, and she happily watched children with their arms outstretched hugging their favorite creatures and engaging with her about the work and the images.
Carrera has a long history of painting murals in Burlington. A recent one is on the outside of a four-story apartment house on South Champlain Street, off South Winooski Avenue. The work
also faces the Champlain pocket park, a small space where neighborhood people take their leisure. One aspect of that picture depicts children planting and harvesting from their own garden. On upper floors of the building are images of flowers, and then a view of the Adirondack Mountains of New York across Lake Champlain.
She also painted a mural of the late realist artist Edward Hopper on a commercial building across from Indigo Salon at 189 Battery Street. After intensive research, she did a piece at 1 King Street, at the ferry dock, depicting historical events from the 1800 in the once-bustling commercial area.
Dozens of Carrera’s earlier murals, including one on the stairway of the city parking garage and one on the side of a building at 206 College Street, were painted over or otherwise have been destroyed over the years.
Carrera grew up in New York City and came to Vermont in 1981 when she was 18 years old. She said she came after she blindly touched a spot on a map and decided to go there. It was Burlington. She graduated from Georgetown University’s Leadership Academy, as well as from the University of Vermont’s LEND program. (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopment Disabilities Program), where she continues to teach.
She now lives in Essex where her children share her home. Both young adults have different disabilities that do not stop them from engaging their world. One is a Youth Ambassador for the state of Vermont representing people with developmental disabilities, and Gina’s son is a university student getting straight A’s and setting an excellent example for people with invisible disabilities.
“I believe that people with disabilities deserve to be as independent and as involved in everyday life as you, and it is my goal to help where I can and to bring disability awareness at every opportunity available to me,” Carrera said.
She also maintains a studio, Wetpaint Studio, in Essex.
Gallery of Photos of “Rainforest” on Leahy Way, Burlington, VT
Photo Credit (Above): Carolyn L. Bates
An Artist Stakes Her Claim to a Wall Covered by a Controversial Mural
When the Burlington City Council voted in May to remove the “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural by August 31, it seemed the controversy surrounding the public artwork was finally over.
Commissioned in 2009 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of explorer Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in Vermont, the painting on the side of a Church Street building depicts the smiling faces of dozens of notable Vermonters — nearly all of whom are white. Activists have called the piece racist for failing to represent the state’s Abenaki heritage. They defaced it more than once.
“It has divided us and caused pain in our community,” Councilor Brian Pine (P-Ward 3) said as the council voted 11-1 to remove or cover the painting two years earlier than planned.
But just as one mural controversy is ending, another is beginning.