Last week, Etobicoke resident Sapna Shah took to social media to share a completely confounding experience in which she received anonymous hate mail for commissioning a local artist to create a mural on her garage door.
In the wake of the viral story, local painters are now banding together to combat the appallingly insulting neighbour-at-large by offering up their garage painting services to others in the area for free.
The mural in question, painted by Natalie V. Bochenska a.k.a. Natalie Very B, depicts a night sky dotted with constellations, as well as a crescent moon overlooking some golden hills — all very benign.
But apparently the piece somehow elicited fury in a nearby citizen, who took it upon themselves to send Shah and her family a message with their incomprehensibly irate feelings.
“You just devalued all of the homes in this area with that hideous graffiti at the front of your house. It has made the entire neighbourhood look like a low income ghetto,” the letter states.
“Every visitor we have will now have to drive by that shit on the way to us like they’re driving through the hood. Shame on you! You have no class!”
It went on to call Shah tasteless and accuse her of having zero consideration for her neighbours. She was utterly shocked by the piece of mail, as were others who read her story.
“We wondered why something so insignificant as painting our garage door would cause you so much anger that you took time from your life to type and mail such hateful words to our family. Then realized you weren’t worth our time,” she wrote in a post about the incident in the South Etobicoke Community Facebook Group last week.
She also called the sender small-minded, racist, and elitist, which fellow members were quick to support her on.
“The only person who devalued property is the one who wrote that letter. Sorry don’t want to live next to a red neck ignorant fu$k,” one commenter said.
“Your mural is beautiful with character and creativity. Tell your six-year-old to feel bad for the person who wrote that letter as most likely they are sad and miserable, and can’t see positivity and happiness if it hit them in the face!” another wrote.
And, more than one called for other neighbours to hop on the garage-painting train and add custom murals of their own to beautify the neighbourhood — which is exactly what a team of artists are now hoping to help do, led by the hand that created the original mural in the first place.
People buying property ina metropolitan city that don’t understand street art. Associating it with the word ghetto is subtle racism. Gentrification doesn’t get to change culture and if you are worried about home value you probably don’t have the means to keep it.— Captain Kvetch (@CaptainKvetch_) September 18, 2020
“Moved by the online outpouring of support for the South Etobicoke family, a group of local artists are organizing a street-level demonstration of love!,” Bochenska wrote in the same community group on Saturday of the new campaign, called Neighbourhood Love.
“We are volunteering our professional skills to visibly express the positive, diverse and inclusive spirit of the South Etobicoke Community. It is our hope that by coming together in a public act of love we can support a sense of empowerment and connection for everyone living in the area.”
I must be “ghetto.” I like the art. There’s lots of garage art in my neighborhood downtown, and it sure hasn’t affected property values.— Susan Sampson (@thefarelady) September 18, 2020
South Etobicoke residents, especially those who live in close proximity to Shah near Royal York and the Queensway, are being encouraged to sign up for a professionally painted, family-friendly mural via Google form if they are a homeowner with a front door and garage door, or are renting and have the permission of their landlord.
Murals will be painted by one of a number of artists over Oct. 3 and 4.
The service is pro bono, but anyone interested is welcome to donate to cover supplies and artists’ time. There is also a poster promoting the cause that citizens can print off and hang up to show their support and, as Bochenska writes, “let everyone know that hateful attacks will not go unanswered in our city — let’s make our love heard!”