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The Graffiti Experiment: Please Help Save My Fence

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links from which I earn a commission.

Shawna Coronado and The Graffiti Preventing  Pollinator Painted Fence

Gorgeous painting

I Need Your Help –

Within a month of my covering the gang graffiti on my back fence with a gorgeous painting of pollinators, native flowers, and a “make a diff” statement to encourage positive action within my neighborhood, my homeowners association slapped me with a stiff fine. It will cost me $30 per month until the painting is covered or taken down. I want to prove that fighting graffiti with beautiful art is an experiment that can work. I love the painting (see above) and want to keep the painting up for three years or until the fence rots, whichever comes first, to see if this experiment will discourage further graffiti.

To do that I need your help. I do not have enough money to pay the monthly fines for three years. Therefore, I am asking for support my fence for $30 per month. That fence support gets you a “Feature Of The Month”  blog post as well – I will write about you, your blog, your cause, or your company as long as I deem the subject matter as positive and publish it on my blog. I  need your help to sponsor the fence!!

Click here to help support your month of fence using my online store and Paypal —



Three years of support for the fence will total $1,080. Should we receive more than $1,080 worth of fence support, then every penny given thereafter will be donated to a worthy cause. Funds will be split between three non-profit organizations as donations;

1) Immanuel Food Pantry, A local food pantry that needs funds to build a community garden on a church property to feed the hungry,

2) Warrenville In Bloom, an organization focused on beautification and green improvements for the local city,

3) Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, to help them develop a regional program based on educating the public on pollinator and native wildlife concerns.

Gang graffiti still showing marks after painting over

About Gang Graffiti In My Neighborhood –

Graffiti in our city is being painted over with neutral paint or sprayed off as required by city policy, but the graffiti is still visible and gangs see that and accept it as their territory mark even if it has been removed (see photo above). Before I painted my own fence I did research to find out what is working to truly discourage graffiti around the country and the answer seems to be art. When the effort is made to put up beautiful or inspiring art instead of simply spraying off or painting over graffiti, then the graffiti artist respects it and leaves that wall alone.

About The Homeowners Association –

The homeowners association (HOA) has told me they are fining me and want the fence down because they feel uncomfortable policing the hundreds of fences in our community by determining what is art and what is not art. My fence causes them difficulty because they must change policy or move outside their comfort zone to manage fence art. They are a small group of well-meaning volunteers that get very little help from the hundreds of homeowners that live in our homeowners association. I do not want the HOA volunteers to be attacked in a negative way related to this fence issue. However, we all want smart, common sense change to happen within our community regarding things like graffiti, environmental efforts, and community upkeep.

Crumbling fences
Fence falling down
Falling apart fences with different colors

About Why I Am Breaking The Rules –

When I hired the amazing local mural artist, Peter Thaddeus, to paint the fence I was unaware that I was breaking the HOA’s rules on fence painting. Mostly because many of the fences in our community are falling down or look very unattractive (see photos above). To be clear — I should have read the rules in great detail before I painted this fence. Without a doubt, I am guilty of breaking these established rules even if I was unaware of them to begin with and the HOA has decided there will not be an exception to the rules for this fence. They want me to paint over the art work with white or neutral color paint.

Sometimes stepping outside of our comfort zone to do good things is necessary. We need our HOA’s, but we also need common sense in managing our urban lives and working together to make positive change happen within our communities.

The painted pollinator fence was created as a sustainable experiment to see if graffiti can be fought in a common sense and peaceful way that has worked in other cities. I hope you will help me keep the experiment going. Let’s make a diff!

Thank you.

Mural of Flowers and Butterflies on Back Garden Fence
Mural of Pollinator Painting with Flowers and Butterflies on Back Garden Fence Shawna Coronado

Gorgeous painting

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  1. You are being very well-mannered in how you take into account there were rules and you failed to think about looking about them and for appreciating the people who take on the unappreciated task of being board members. Very nice of you Shawna, but good grief, I have to say in your place – “Look at the crap-looking fences you HOA people are not bothering to squawk (dank squawk is hard for me to remember how to spell, had to go type it in an e-mail for a fast spellcheck) about. How fallen down does a nondescript fence have to be before you tell the owner to fix the fence?”

  2. Thanks Sharon, for noticing I am trying to be polite. This is not a hateful effort – it’s an effort that I hope will create thought. Not only for my city, but for urban communities around the country.

    Since I don’t own the fences, I’m not sure what’s being done about them. But they are all within my HOA’s boundaries.

    My hope is for the experiment to go through so we can perhaps address new ideas for graffiti within our community.



  3. Your ideal of sponsoring the fence is awesome! HOA should be thankful your fence is intact; HOA amendments are necessary sometimes….. When I start a blog, I will advertise w/ you first! Glad you share your ‘real’ life with us.

  4. Shawna, I commend you for your (likely!) carefully chosen response to standard HOA nonsense. I am afraid I would not be so patient, or so nice. But you remind me that we all can make a difference in our own neighborhoods in small ways. We don’t always have to make the big splash to make an impact.
    Your fence is amazing. I hope it stays there forever!

  5. Hooray!! Thanks so very much!! It’s been a challenge, but I hope the experiment lives on so we can find some alternatives to how we treat gang graffiti.

  6. Hi,

    I just wanted to say that I don’t see the HOA’s issue with you adding beauty to an ugly fence that’s about to fall down anyway..even if they have no fence painting rules. I also have to wonder after reading their demands that you repaint your beautiful fence in neutral that maybe they would rather look at gang tags even painted over which just made an already bad thing look worse. You go girl and don’t let them get away with that. I know in our town we had that issue only with city buildings downtown and you are so right art does work to keep this at bay because our towns answer was to hire a painter to paint murals of historical significance over the gang tags…the murals are three years old now maybe older and to my knowledge nothing like gang tags have happened to them since they where painted up. I might be able to find internet pictures of the murals and if I do I will post them here for you to see. Take care and good luck!

  7. I love your mural and would be happy to see something like that in my ‘hood. I wish you good luck with your efforts to change the HOA rules.

  8. I LOVE the idea of creating beautiful spaces especially from negative ones! It’s too bad the HOA can’t get over their egos and by-laws to reconsider this being a help to the environment and overall community spirit.

  9. OK…how do I sign up to sponsor a month? And thank you for NOT being bland and grey and submissive. Art should make…no, change that to FORCE people to think. Even if they disagree they must go through the process of why…what bothers them. (Seriously…how do I sign up?)

  10. Wow. That’s awesome. Be sure to send information on what you might want covered on the blog about you or your organization Greg. THANK YOU!!!

  11. I love and appreciate what you are doing. I grew up in Warrenville and I loved it there. Mom and dad are still there and as much as I’m not to keen on it’s growth, it will still always be home. I support what you are doing and will go to your link to donate ! Good luck!

  12. You have taken a road not many choose. You’ve done an excellent job looking at this from a wide angle and making such a creative decision. Why not take it a bit further and add a “Free Little Library” by your bench for neighbors to stop read and enjoy the beauty. I hope your fence stands the test of time and weather so it can be relocated to a public garden in the future. Long live your fence-May it stand bright and beautiful season after season! Great job Shawna!

  13. You go, Shawna! I’m proud to be a “Paint My Fence” participant for a month. Hopefully, this will set a trend, and we all know what a trend-setter YOU are 🙂 Cheers!

  14. Shawna, I just recently moved into Summerlakes not far from you and every time I drive down Batavia I get a smile on my face when I see your beautiful mural. I was driving by yesterday with my mother and pointed it out to her and she notified me that she heard about it on the news and that there were issues with the HOA. Today I did some research and found an article, and also found that I already subscribe to your blog (I’m behind in reading since moving)! In any case I love your approach to the graffiti problem and commend you for standing up for something that you believe in. I also feel that something should be done about the falling down fences before the HOA worries about your piece of art. Thanks for beautifying our community!

  15. This situation can be looked at from many different angles. From the rigid perspective of rule-makers to the peace loving free thinkers, and a few in between. I generally like to look at the bigger picture and find some rules & laws to be counter productive and autocratic. Say you crossed the street to help someone in need. Should you be fined for J-walking?

    I applaud you Shawna for bringing attention to the graffiti issue as well as the aging & tired fence. Something had to be done and since no one else was, you took the a peaceful initiative.

    I don’t know the rules & policies of the HOA on how soon graffiti is to be cleaned up or how old a fence has to look before it’s replaced. But those fining you should put themselves in your shoes, or at least admit that the fence required action to be taken. Those in your neighborhood should thank you for positive action. Good Lord man – bureaucracy creating static again in an otherwise fluid situation.

    The way I see it, That fence needed an upgrade and it happened the minute you painted it Shawna. You win even if the wheels fall off. Point made. Rock on! ~

  16. I drive by your fence daily and always slow down to look at it. I think it is gorgeous–and then seeing the other fences with simple spray paint over the graffiti–they should be fined it looks horrible. I support you 150 %!

  17. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing and Caring about Aesthetics. Have you thought of Kickstarter as a way to fund the project?

  18. You have an HOA in a gang neighborhood??? Is there no place safe from gangs anymore? I think the HOA should change their rules for the simple reason that it looks lovely and is uplifting to gaze at…in fact, there should be this kind of mural on all the fences. Also, they should replace the fences that are falling down. Sounds to me like you are just getting strong armed by the HOA gang. Probably going into someone’s pocket knowing this area the way I do.

  19. No. We don’t really live in a gang neighborhood – we live in a quiet residential suburban community, yet we go through periods where gangs will leave tags on our fences. It becomes immensely frustrating to find gang symbols left on our properties. What are we to do?

  20. Thanks for the suggestion. So far, we have funded the fence for several years. We’ll see what happens after that. 🙂

  21. Shawna, what a lovely thing to do! It makes so much sense, and I’ll bet it keeps working!

    I can see both sides to this issue. If the HOA put in an “art” clause, there would inevitably be some jerk who would paint his/her fence with Nazi symbols or something equally offensive, calling it art and/or free speech, and it would look worse than the gang tags. It’s hard to stuff that genie back in the bottle.

    Isn’t it crazy that legality and common sense seem to be mutually exclusive at times? Sigh.

    I’m so happy I found your blog again (I lost all my links when Google Reader expired, and I hadn’t gotten around to looking up everything). I’m a container gardener (a sunny backyard, but it’s all deck!) and I so enjoy your gardening posts, video tutorials, and breathtaking pics!


  22. I’ll keep them coming. I have some great photography plans this year. 🙂

    Thanks for your support Kathy!

    Happy New Year!

  23. Who the hell is this HOA and why do they have a say If you want to take a stand just tell them to take you start paying your mortgage or shut the hell up and to take you to court

  24. Hi, I love what was done to this fence. It is so bright, cheerful, and tastefully done. I put a smile on my face to see it and brightened my day, Thanks! I wish I could contribute, but I am on a very tight budget and money barely stretches as it is. Hugs and prayers that you win! I not only feel this is so right, I feel the HOA should ENCOURAGE folks to do their fences the same way. I used to live in Point Pleasant WV, where there is a flood wall between the town and the Ohio/Kanawha Rivers and on the Ohio side there is a park where every year they have been adding murals to the wall. It is awesome.

  25. Your graffiti is so BEAUTIFUL…it completely changed the neighborhood. Are the people there crazy that they want it removed? I wish you could come here in NJ to my garden and paint my fence like that. WOW! Absolutely gorgeous. I am going to send you help. But, it will not come from KL as this is my psuedonym.

  26. Отличная работа!Сколько труда и любви вложено в такой забор! Молодец!!Попробуем на своих участках сделать подобное

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