Hi all, I am going to address something here after much deliberation because so many of our customers have seen the paper and asked us the details…
For those of you following the town drama… I sent a response to the article tonight…see below. (Will attach the link to it here for those who haven’t seen it.)
To whom it may concern:
I am the professional painter who beautified the neglected wall on Glenridge Avenue. I donated a high-end exterior decorative paint and many hours of my own time, taught the elementary-aged neighborhood children how to mix their own colors and paint the stripes as a community art project, then hand-painted the pro-Montclair sentiment “love where you live” as an homage to how I feel about our town.
I didn’t sign the wall nor did I promote my local business on it – not because I was hiding from the law – but because I considered it a contribution to our neighborhood that didn’t require recognition. However, this wasn’t sneakily done in the stealth of the night and practically the entire neighborhood was well aware of the progress as it has been a 3-year long project done entirely in daylight hours with permission.
I have been overwhelmed by the positive response from the residents and local businesses of Montclair (& beyond) who have seen the wall since the improvements and who have thanked me, taken photos in front of it, used it as a promo for their real estate ads to entice people to move here, etc…and also those who reached out in disbelief once they read the Montclair Local article.
I deliberated about responding to the article because explaining myself feels like a defense which would suggest I did something wrong. To quote the article, I am not a “vandal” or “culprit” and the artwork is not “graffiti” nor did I “deface” anything. It’s unsettling that someone would be opposed to such a positive, non-political message and feel strongly enough to bring it to the attention of a town hall meeting, suggest criminal activity without learning the facts, then threaten extreme punishments.
The facts are these: I am a Montclair resident, mom of two kids in our public school district, and a local business owner. Exactly four years ago this weekend, I opened my small independent shop on Glenridge Avenue. I support local artists and artisans by carrying their products and artwork in addition to my own handmade home goods so “love where you live” is a way of life for me and my family and one I preach to my customers regularly. The wall in question has been neglected by the township for years. It had algae and mold actively growing on it and had turned mottled shades of brown and gray. Shortly after moving in to my space, I asked Luther (of the BID) if I could upgrade the eyesore. He gave me permission to paint it as a random act of beauty 3+ years ago.
At that time, Suzanne from the Art Garage was my merchant neighbor and we met to find a painter from her resources but could not find anyone who would paint a mural for free so I began painting colorful stripes instead. After I had painted about 1/3 of the wall over the course of several weeks, Luther announced that he found a muralist to paint it. I spoke with him about the stripes and how I would like to preserve them and he said she would incorporate them into her mural. I offered to donate my paint to her but was told she would be using chalk instead so I would be able to finish my project once her mural faded away. Except, as you know, her mural did not fade as she ended up using latex paint. She painted the faces over my stripes, so they lasted and are still in good condition. However since she painted the text “notice me” over the dirty wall, her latex paint peeled off and started looking worse for wear.
I had allowed for enough time to honor her artwork and was ready to finish my project so last Spring I continued striping the wall. Since I did so during business hours, my own children and my customers’ children painted the remainder of the stripes from the right of the faces down the length of the wall. They intently mixed their own colors, wrote down their recipes, named them creatively, then stood outside with a sense of accomplishment that they were helping to enrich the neighborhood. Once the stripes were dry, I whimsically hand-painted the phrase “love where you live.”
As a first-generation Iranian American who grew up in the South, our diverse and open-minded town of Montclair has been the first home in almost 40 years I have felt not only accepted for who I am but also a part of something bigger than me. This community has embraced us, encouraged us, and supported us from the moment we chose it over 5 years ago. I love where I live and not even a little town council drama can change my mind.