When Warrenville resident Shawna Coronado went out to weed and saw someone had painted gang symbols on the back of her fence, she cried.
"I spend a lot of my time working to beautify the community and talking to others about how we can all help each other make the world a better place," Coronado said. "So, seeing that, it hurt my feelings. This was not an attack on me, but an attack on everyone in our community."
Knowing Warrenville asks residents to scrape off or paint over graffiti within 48 hours, Coronado enlisted the help of local artist Peter Thaddeus to help not just paint over the gang signs, but to put up a message of her own.
When he was done, a section of Coronado's rear fence that's about 8 feet wide and 6 feet high was transformed into a colorful mural celebrating local plant life.
"The mural is actually a pollinator painting emphasizing our city flower, other native plants, and local pollinators in order to encourage community support of environmental issues," Coronado said.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however, and the Summerlakes Homeowners Associationdoes not approve of Coronado's "improvement." The group has taken to fining her $30 a month for violating the association's architecture and landscaping bylaws.
Having already collected donations to cover $1,080 in fines over the next three years, Coronado said she's leaving the mural up as a social experiment.
"Gangbangers see the painted-over symbols, including the ones all over our community, and still consider that their mark because the damage is still visible," Coronado said.
"This is an experiment to see if we can combat graffiti in a different way than is currently being done in our city. Will they come re-mark this fence? I honestly don't think they will."
If the fence is vandalized for a second time and has to be cleaned, Coronado said she will donate whatever is left of the $1,080 she's collected to three local charities: the Immanuel Food Pantry, Warrenville in Bloom and Brookfield Zoo.
"I'm fully aware that I'm breaking my association's rules, so every month when they come collecting their fines I go to the donations and hand them $30. If I no longer have a fine to pay, I can't keep that money, so charity will benefit."
Debbie Lamberg, president of the homeowners association, did not return a message Thursday.
Coronado said Warrenville officials also threatened to fine her as much as $700 for text on the mural they believed bordered on illegal advertising. She avoided that fine in recent days by changing the wording to read "Grow Community."
For the most part, her neighbors have been supportive of the mural, she said. Coronado said the mural, which faces Batavia Road, has also become popular with drivers and bicyclists who stop to check it out on weekends.
"People seem to like it, it highlights some of the best parts of the community and it's colorful and cheerful," she said. "It looks a lot better than some of the other falling down fences we have in town."