When I was a kid I used to envy people who lived near landmarks. I thought, how cool would it be to say, “We are two blocks east of the purple gas station” …and everyone would know exactly where you lived, because even if they didn’t spend time at the purple gas station, a purple gas station just one of those things that’s hard to not know about. Right?
Well folks, as of two weeks ago, I created my own landmark – the house with the flower garage. All of the neighbors can now say, “We are two blocks south of the flower garage.” and so on and so on. It’s pretty much a service to the community.
It’s done. For now. It still needs some touch ups and new light fixture. The fence is ugly. A neighbor came by and saw me taking photos this morning and suggested I work on killing the weeds in the sidewalk cracks. In my head I said, “Lady, if you look at this garage situation and all you see is some weeds in the sidewalk crack, you’ve got problems.” But I didn’t. I said, “Yeah, no. I’m not worried about it.”
In fact, worrying is hot topic that came out of this. When I started sharing the process on Instagram in July, I got umpteen messages from people saying, “I would love to do this but my neighbors would kill me!”
People. What the hell is that about? Why do your neighbors get any say in how you paint your home? It’s art. It’s a visual contribution to the greater good. It’s a message of love. Support. Community. It can be anything you want it to be, and you don’t have to take it to seriously, because guess what? It’s a garage. And if you hate it you can paint over it. If anything, a garage door begs to be a little outlandish.
Want to hear something funny? Our garage doors were already famous. Well, maybe famous is a generous term. But I’ll bet you never mat anyone who can claim their garage was on a beer bottle, now can you? Look!
Here it is in action…
So I was painting, Alice George, local artist/neighbor/part owner of Sketchbook Brewing Company, stops by and mentions that year ago she made a print of our garage for funsies. Then a while after that they needed artwork for a new beer called No Parking, and boom, the garage has been on the bottle ever since. Had no idea!
Now the doors look a little different, but a couple years ago they looked like this…
You’d think I would have remembered to take pictures before the whole house was painted in 2016, but no. So hat tip to Google Maps on that one.
Here are the doors plain white. Not bad, but not good. For some reason a lot of service trucks like to do three-point-turns right here, so there are a bunch of mild indentations along the bottom. You can’t see them in the photo really, but they drove me nuts in person. The door is aluminum so there wasn’t much to be done about it. Even getting an even coat of paint on aluminum doors is hard. As I learned soon enough…
This is with two coats of primer. One coat plain white, one coat with green mixed in. When I paint in everyday life I always ground the canvas in a solid color – garage doors were no exception! After those had 24 hours to cure a few neighbors said “Oh! Green! Nice!” thinking that was it. Little did they know what was coming…
Now we are cooking…
You can tell from the variety of lighting and weather conditions, if took a few days. My favorite part of the mural? Bottom right corner.
Abraham made an appearance. It seemed appropriate – everyone who walks by the garage will also walk by the yard, which means they will likely meet Abe. Because Abe knows everybody.
He’s rather pleased with himself. I’m sure some folks will think it’s silly to paint a dog on a garage wit flowers, but really, it’s not just flowers, it’s a portrait. It’s a community. Some people grow gardens and everyone who sees them benefits by proxy. Some of us paint them.
So that’s it. It’s a garage. It’s a mural. It’s a garden. But let’s get this clear; I didn’t paint my garage doors 12 kinds of crazy because I wanted them to look pretty. I painted them because I wanted every person who passed by them to see something that conveyed a sign of welcome. It might look like a bunch of dumb garden flowers to some, but it was made with love and inclusiveness in mind. These doors say, WE ARE GLAD YOU ARE HERE! …Because we are. Because that stuff matters. Because there’s too much pain and pointed fingers going around these days, and if we have the ability to offset some of that garbage for our neighbors and strangers alike, let’s do it.
I’m lucky enough to live in a pretty diverse neighborhood. Our block alone has every age, race, religion, sexual orientation, marital/relationship status, immigration status, gender identity, socio economic situation, and then some. Few hundred feet in one direction there’s public housing…few hundred feet in the other direction you’ll find million dollar homes. That’s pretty unusual. Maybe in big cities, but for a suburb? In the midwest? That slice of variety doesn’t happen a lot. It’s pretty cool. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to live exactly right here. But there are some mornings I sit on that back porch with Abe and I see people going to work while I listen to the news, and it occurs to me, every day, these doors are crossed by someone who has been made to feel defensive, or outcast, or ashamed, or unwanted, or somehow lesser than others. There are so many scary things going on these days (Hello, Charlottesville). So many people sharpening their teeth. I can’t really do a lot about that, but I can say this little plot of earth will counterbalance some of that ugly with something beautiful. And positive. And welcoming.
How boring would a garden be if every flower looked the same?
PS: If you want to broadcast a message of inclusiveness from your house and aren’t quite ready to do up the whole garage, these signs are pretty cool. You have to order a minimum of five, but they are pretty cheap and make great gifts. Win-win, America!