Neighbors helping Neighbors with art; A fence goes up in Los Gatos

Tired of cleaning up dog poop, one homeowner in Los Gatos put up a fence and got neighbors and friends to turn it into an art project. Photo courtesy of Leo Martinez.

People who let their dog poop on a neighbor’s lawn is an issue homeowners everywhere know all too well. And, in Los Gatos, CA it has become a problem.

According to Allen Meyer who serves as Code Compliance Officer, “typically, a warning notice is issued on the first offense.  After that, it is a citation starting at $100.00.”

Yet, even with fines people continue to trespass with their dogs. Artist, Judi Rosenthal understands because she sees dog poop in her neighborhood almost all the time. This is why when Rosenthal was asked to participate in a fence art project, she was happy to oblige.

“Alone Together” was the phrase that artist Judi Rosenthal painted on one of the fence boards she painted. Photo courtesy of Judi Rosenthal.

Tired of confronting culprit-dogs and their owners in the act of defecating, a homeowner on University Ave decided to put up a fence.

Spurred on by the dismantling of an old fence to make way for a new one for a neighbor’s property the old fence boards became the materials. The old boards conveniently served for a two-fold endeavor; put up a fence to keep dogs out and to bring neighbors together to express themselves through art.

Yet the unexpected and unprecedented Coronavirus situation changed things with an unusually serendipity.

The recycled fence had to be trimmed and prepped into 4 by 4 posts and railings. What was expected to take about three months or more, got completed in a fraction of time. In only three weeks over 60 painted boards were completed.

Rosenthal’s was among them. “As an artist I have painted over 300 mandalas in the past, she said. I know they always come from my subconscious mind.”

As part of Buddhist traditions of the East, mandala paintings follow a particular style and pattern. Having this unusual opportunity to paint fence boards was a departure and something Rosenthal had reservations about. Much of the texture of wood was grainy and course.

This is the Mandala style that artist Judi Rosenthal has painted over the years. Painting on old fence boards is a departure. Photo courtesy of Judi Rosenthal.

Yet once she got into it that changed. “I just followed the grain pattern to make the design,” said Rosenthal.

As a result of participating in this fence art project, “Mandala painting became too constrictive for me, as I needed something much larger allowing for more freedom of expression and not contained within a circle. I loved painting on the fence wood so much, I now paint on 24×24 pieces of plywood,” Rosenthal said.

As painted boards were being put up, people passing by would inquire. Which, as explained by retired firefighter Leo Martinez got more people to participate. No advertising was done. People heard about it by word of mouth.

Martinez noted that his parents used to live in the neighborhood for many years. Now moved on and living in the City, he rents out the property. Martinez commutes frequently from San Francisco to check up on the tenants and visit familiar haunts in Los Gatos.

Los Gatos over the past 40 years has become a coveted spot with its own particular status – “Los Gatos status.” A part of Santa Clara County south of San Francisco beyond The Peninsula, in what is now referred to as “Silicon Valley,” Los Gatos has an upscale demeanor all its own.

Rich agricultural land gave way to the high tech industry ranking Los Gatos the “33rd most wealthiest places in the country,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

A home and neighborhood is something people respect and cherish – this is why putting up a fence was the final outcome. Rosenthal who has observed the trends lately pointed out. “Pet supply stores sell poop bags in an array of colors and even scented. It isn’t just a commodity for some it is almost like an accessory that goes with the dog, a fashion statement almost.”

This past Monday June 8, with a lilt of pride in his voice, Martinez said. “I had a phrase put on the boards in honor of firefighters – ‘you light ’em, we fight ’em.’ I wanted that on there, people need to remember that firefighters risk their lives,” said Martinez.

Recognizing the importance of simple phrases to accentuate art, Rosenthal noted. “The words I painted are ‘Alone Together’ to remind people of this time in our lives of the Coronavirus of when these boards were made.”

She like Martinez, Sangita & Will and others all were able to make a statement about community. Even if what they had individually made was personal, it is something that the community accomplished so to help a neighbor in need. To learn more about the town of Los Gatos, visit the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce website.