Freedom of expression: artist finds liberty in local art show

This year’s annual South End Art Hop festival brought fresh creativity and perspective to the street galleries and exhibitions of Burlington.


One newcomer to the Art Hop scene, artist Cara Lai FitzGibbons, was noted for her unique brand of creativity and humor, earning her third place in the juried show.


FitzGibbons uses a variety of media, including illustrations, paintings and comics. Her art focuses on everything from concrete objects like houses to less tangible things like everyday life and emotions.


Although she is a Massachusetts native, FitzGibbons is no stranger to the Burlington area, having completed her graduate degree in social work at UVM. She also attended the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied illustration.  


Before becoming an artist, FitzGibbons worked odd jobs outside of school such as being a cartoon illustrator for the Adult Swim program, “Assy Mcgee,” and later as a children’s outdoor educator.  


FitzGibbons ultimately decided to pursue social work. “I wanted to practice moving towards freedom in my own life,” she said, “and at the same time help other people do that in their lives.”


This freedom comes as part of the artistic process, FitzGibbons said. “I use a part of my brain that isn’t really there when I’m doing other stuff, definitely not with some of the social work I do,” she said, “but I also find that making art helps me be more creative with social work.”


Much of FitzGibbons’ work focuses on houses, in particular houses that excite her sensitivity to spaces. “I’m really sensitive to my surroundings,” she said, “when there’s something energetically there for me I know it right away, I can feel that when I’m near certain houses.”


FitzGibbons said her paintings also reflect her inner thoughts, both good and bad, creating a result that surprises her. “There is this really intense mental battle going on when I’m painting,” she said when I take a step back I see everything, the negative and the positive, everything that I talked to myself [about] during that whole time I was painting.”


For artists like FitzGibbons, Art Hop offers a more fulfilling exhibition space than the typical New York City gallery, as it makes art accessible to more people. “I want my art to be seen by homeless people, anyone, so it can be something that everyone can talk about,” FitzGibbons said.  


What FitzGibbons loves most about Art Hop is the sense of total freedom. “I don’t feel constrained,” she said, “which to me is the total opposite of creativity.” FitzGibbons especially enjoyed the freedom of standing back with her mother and boyfriend, pretending to be anyone but the artist and listening in on the viewers unfiltered reactions.