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HOA Fines Force Tear Down of The Graffiti Fence

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With a heavy heart, I must tell you that the Graffiti Fence Experiment is being shut down because the Summerlakes Homeowners Association is raising the fines to a ridiculous amount of money. Our neighborhoods have had graffiti and vandalism happening to them for years with no resolution or solution that really worked to prevent the gang graffiti symbols in the first place. Frustrated, I did research and discovered that beautiful art painted over gang symbols discouraged taggers from coming back, so hired Peter Thaddeus to do the art to inspire positive community action against gang tagging. Without doing proper research on the rules of my Homeowners Association (HOA), I put this painting up and discovered that I had broken the rules after the fact. My thought was that I would leave the fence up for 2 years as an experiment to see if it would really work in our community. Sadly, the HOA fined me because I had unwittingly broken the rules and told me that I would have to paint over the painting with a neutral color or pull it down. They began fining me $30 per month and I had to decide if I should continue to break the rules of the HOA in order to conduct this gang graffiti prevention experiment.

Summer View

Supporters Have Been Paying the Fines

Pollinator Fence Graffiti ExperimentPollinator Fence Graffiti Experiment

My fans, friends, neighbors, and supporters got together and wanted the fence to stay. I decided to continue forward and my punishment was the $30 fine and I understood that, so I continued to pay monthly thanks to the support of my online community. Supporters gave the fence effort almost enough money to pay the fines for the 2 year period of time I had hoped for. Here’s that original story post – LINK. I received thousands of notes, emails, texts, and tweets all through the fall, winter, spring, and now summer. Seal Krete provided Dura-Shell WB, a special clear coat of anti-graffiti paint with a low VOC that goes over a wall or floor in order to protect it against further graffiti abuse. Hundreds of people from my neighborhood and community stopped by my home to give me support, including mayors from surrounding cities, police officers, firemen, dozens of bicyclists, garden lovers, young people, old people – so many wonderful people. And I began my monthly payment schedule, posting supporters’ information on my blog as I showed their contributions.

The Fine Increases

Now Summerlakes Homeowners Association has decided to increase the fines. Within 60 days I have to take down the fence or give them a corrective action plan I will have to start paying $100 per month with additional fines if I continue to disobey the rules. I’ve gone to the HOA board and asked for their consideration and it resulted in them saying no, a lot of shouting, and a bunch of angry people. There was a note in the HOA’s newsletter basically stating that “this is the way things have always been done” and they didn’t want to change. It occurs to me that 30 years ago we didn’t have gang tagging, so it might be time for things to change and I wish they would be open to more art in our neighborhood, both to discourage gang graffiti and simply to enjoy. This is especially important considering the state of many of our fences in the community (see below as an example) that are falling down or look unattractive. Although I want this experiment to continue because I really do want to see if it might work, I feel that $100 a month could be going to help others in a positive way – like a food pantry, or a garden, or an effort to save the pollinators. $100 a month would feed a starving family. I think $100 a month is a ridiculous amount of money to spend for anything, let alone to support the HOA’s pockets after the way they have treated this situation.

With this in mind, my husband and I have decided that within 60 days we will remove the fence. We will put up a new stockade fence to replace the old, then move the pretty painting to rest on the inside of the fence until we can decide what else we might do with it to inspire positive action against crime and for neighborhood unity within a community. It would be awesome to see it displayed in a public place again; perhaps it will inspire another community as much as it has the lovely and sweet neighbors who have been walking by and hugging me because they want to keep it. Or perhaps I’ll just leave my back garden gate open and invite all my neighbors in to enjoy it on the inside. I feel sad that the experiment was not proven, but I have been hugged by thousands of people who have told me they believe in it and I feel happy knowing that for a few short months this fence really made a difference for my small part of the world.

Experiment Ugly Fence in Summerlakes

Donating the money to a Worthy Cause

back fence

Originally I explained to my readers and supporters that should we receive a large quantity of money for fence support over and above the proposed time frame OR should they force me to take the fence down, then the funds would be split between three non-profit organizations as donations. Those 3 non-profits are below and I have decided to give the remaining graffiti fence monies that people have donated to these organizations to support the development of programs that are good for our world instead of wasting more than $100 per month to fund the HOA.

1) Immanuel Food Pantry, A local food pantry that needs funds to build a community garden on 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.

Thank you to all the astoundingly wonderful people – literally thousands of people – who expressed their support for this experiment. And to those who sent money to support the graffiti experiment — if I did not cover your story and you were a contributor and would still like a feature on my blog, please feel free to reach out to me because I would love to show your amazingness to the world. In the meantime, we will pull down the fence and put up another sometime in the next 60 days. I will be sure to show all of you what the groups above do with the money I gave from the fence supporters – I hope to post photos and keep you apprised. Thank you again for all your support. I really do love you people and am grateful that you believe in me and my experiment to try to combat graffiti, build gardens, and spread some love in the world. I hope our shared efforts inspired other communities and HOA’s to come together to support new ways to prevent gang graffiti and build a positive community – you all are the best!

Dog Walker

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  1. It’s a shame to hear that your HOA is a bunch of stubborn old fuddy duddys. That mural is a beautiful piece of art and is by NO MEANS graffiti. It was a great experiment and I’m glad it stayed up as long as it did. Maybe you could donate it to a local school or nursery.. or sell it and make a donation to your favorite charity. Good for both you and Peter for being good souls.

  2. hate to see that it’s come to this, but I think everything you’ve said makes sense. That HOA is absurd. Fundamentally, it’s probably run by a small handful of low-life, close-minded idiots.

  3. Knowing how they feel about me, I’m not sure they’d vote me in. And I travel so very much that I’m not around enough for the board meetings. I would want to be heavily involved if I was on the board.

  4. I don’t want to say bad things about the board members. I think they are trying to figure out how to manage if other people would want to paint their fences. They’re not sure how to do it and so have fallen back on the conservative “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. I’ve mentioned several times that I would be happy to head an “art committee” to help address the confusion. Bottom line, I think that improving our communities starts with kindness, listening, open minds, and positive change. At the very minimum, I hope that this experience will pave the way for other HOA’s to consider positive change for their communities and hopefully we’ll start to see the same for ours.

  5. It appears you have lovely large trees in your backyard. Have you considered hanging the fence from the trees? A fence mural, if you will. Is there restrictions in the HOA for hanging art, probably not. It is frustrating that there are people unwilling to change as the world evolves. All the best to you!

  6. Sad to hear, but not surprising. I appreciate your efforts and have pointed out your art to my wife as we drove past. Peter really did do a super job!

    Unfortunately in this time of trying to get to the lowest common denominator, we seem to throw out common sense in order to be “fair.” They’d rather have an ugly fence with blotted out graffiti than a beautiful mural. I wonder if you could put up the neutral fence, then take the painted one apart and mount each separate picket to a stake and stake them out. It’s not a fence anymore, it is garden art.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Oh, Shawna! This breaks my heart! I kept hoping that the HOA would open their minds to something innovative and hopeful. Your mural was simply wondrous, and it’s a shame that they don’t see that. I will continue to hope that they will see the light.

  8. I saw on their contact page that JRS Firearms Training, LLC is one of their website sponsors.

    Perhaps by encouraging gang graffiti, this promotes the culture of fear that drives more sales for such a company? Cynical, perhaps…. but also probably correct.

  9. I am so sorry to hear about the fence….you put up a good fight. I do hope somehow it will work out in the future. People are afraid of change and like predictable rules….but the world revolves and changes and so should your HOA.

  10. Thank you for making the world a better, brighter place. Eventually they will see their way to the light. πŸ™‚

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