The mural began as a project began as an artistic challenge and has resulted in controversy. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

Garage door mural sparks gated community debate in Vernon

Though the mural violates regulations, Bergen hopes the community support will sway management.

Rudy Bergen rediscovered his creative side over the past year.

Though this sounds innocent enough, it sparked quite the controversy among those around him.

The story began last summer when he and his granddaughter decided to create an elaborate chalk drawing on his driveway at Desert Cove Estates in Vernon. Using an existing painting of the farm Bergen grew up on in Saskatoon as a reference, they went to work. Eventually, vibrant colours engulfed his driveway. To his surprise, he thought they did a good job — better than he expected.

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This caused a bit of a stir in the community, but that clearly didn’t phase him because this year, Bergen decided to do something a bit more permanent: paint it as a mural on his garage door.

This idea came to fruition when his daughter and granddaughter visited the weekend of Aug. 9. Though they remained somewhat skeptical of their skills, it was his birthday so they decided to give it a go.

“It was our first effort [at painting a mural] and I said that if it was ugly, we’d paint over it immediately but we ended up kind of liking it in the end,” he said.

Seeing as the chalk drawing had caused a rumble within the community, the mural understandably caused more controversy at Desert Cove.

Many said they enjoyed the image, but it technically violated the rules and regulations members sign when choosing to live in the community. But, Bergen thought it may be easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. And, a few weeks later, management contacted Bergen via email to tell him that he was violating the policy agreement.

“Their story is that it’s a controlled community and if everyone started painting their garage door then it could get really ugly around here.”

Bergen posed that perhaps this is exacerbated because he lives at one of the first houses seen when driving into the gated community.

“They gave me from Sept. 26 to paint it a single, approved colour. I had a meeting with management after that and said, ‘well aren’t you curious what the winter scene would look like.’”

Originally a summer scene, he thought he’d adjust the painting to reflect the season. He recently changed the colours of the trees and grass as summer turned into fall. As Halloween approached, he also painted Jack-o-lanterns, a witch, an owl and a cat. He also added props to give the piece dimension. This included a rope and the sign that originally hung at the actual barn he grew up on in Saskatoon in the 1970s.

People seemed to enjoy the mural and he received outpouring support in the form of 35 letters of encouragement written by other Desert Cove residents.

“Rudy and Rita are great neighbours. Their yard is beautiful and the addition of Rudy’s art on their garage door adds character and charm,” wrote one neighbour.

“I agree Rudy’s door and other artistic touches are wonderful,” wrote another. “Agree we don’t want to be tastefully boringly beige. Maybe future door painters need to get DCHA and administration approval though [but] looking forward to signing the petition for this one to stay.”

“I certainly agree with all the positive comments about Rudy’s garage door. It is so nice and I can’t believe that someone would want this lovely art destroyed. It is an up-lifting sight when you arrive through the gates.”

What resulted was a petition to keep it. So far, 64 people signed.

“There have also been tour buses that come and stop here. A senior home from Vernon brought an entire bus here to see it. They all got out and had a look and admired it and were all happy,” Bergen said.

Though the Morning Star made several attempts to speak with Desert Cove management, they have yet to comment.

Bergen said that he understands the reasons that Desert Cove has for requesting the mural be painted over but still hopes he can convince management to let it stay.

“People seem to really like it and it is sort of fun to do and add to it when I think of something but I love where I live and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else so we’ll see what happens,” Bergen said.

He said he would comply if he needed to, but he thinks it adds to the character of the community.

“It makes me happy — and obviously based on the response and the petition, it seems to make other people happy too.”

Related: Pottery mural fires up public interest

Related: Lumby’s new mural complete

Related: Vernon summer mural tours start

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The idea began a year ago when Bergen and his granddaughter crafted the same scene as a chalk drawing. (Photo contributed)

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