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The story behind the painted fences & sheds in one Lake Grove neighborhood

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Bright tulips, violets, rainbows, grazing deer, dragonflies, fairies and sunflowers. Those are just some of the images vividly painted along fences and sheds around Cedar Grove Avenue in Lake Grove.

GreaterSmithtown took notice, and tracked down the artist, Jennifer Okubo.

Okubo is a medical biller at Stony Brook University Hospital, but when she’s not in front of a computer, she can often be found holding a paint brush.

She’s all about community when it comes to her art, and her only compensation comes in the form of smiles.

“I’ve always drawn; I’ve always painted,” Okubo said. “Not for monetary reasons, just to make people smile — that’s my motto.”

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Spending more time at home due to the pandemic sparked Okubo’s fence mural project. It started with her painting her shutters sunflower yellow — a home-improvement project during quarantine.

Her bright shutters received a lot of admiration from her neighbors, leading her to paint a yellow sunflower on her fence.

Soon enough, she was painting murals on fences and sheds all around her neighborhood. 

Okubo painted a neighbor’s fence who had just lost her husband — beautifying it with symbols of a red cardinal, dragonfly and sunflower in memory of her dear husband.

She painted another neighbor’s shed with portraits of the neighbor’s two dogs with a rainbow behind them, along with song lyrics.

“For me, it brought me out of my COVID isolation funk,” said the neighbor, Lynn Hydo. “I’m a cancer survivor and at gigantic risk. Everyday I see the mural and I smile. Every time I see it my spirits are lifted.”

Her yellow lab had died a month after the mural was painted.

“It has become a memorial to her,” she said.

Okubo also painted a mural for her yoga instructor — a personalized design of a fairy doing a dancer’s pose — as a gift for the instructor offering clients free yoga classes over Zoom.

“People would drive by and say, ‘You know, I just came home from a bad day at work and I drive past your house on purpose because it makes me smile,’” Okubo said.

The vibrant murals became immediately appreciated and cherished in Okubo’s community. Neighbors and her mailman started leaving thank you notes in her mailbox, and children would come up to her and tell her how much they loved her murals.

This also inspired her to write her children’s book, Sunshine Warrior, which came out in October. 

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The book depicts a young girl living in a time of darkness wanting to use her big heart and gift of art to bring light back to her community.

The young girl paints a garden on her fence with the mission to cheer up the neighborhood, but in turn, cheers up the entire world instead. 

Okubo says a surgeon and his wife were so moved by her story that they bought 100 copies of the book and donated them to a children’s hospital in Buffalo.

“That is a huge gift to me because that’s why I wrote it, for the children,” Okubo said. “My heart is completely full.”

Okubo’s murals and children’s book have given her opportunities to spread her message of love even further. The artist says a woman in New Hampshire, who is planning to open a wellness retreat center, contacted her to paint sunflower murals on the buildings there as well.

People in Maine and Massachusetts have also reached out for murals.

“Hopefully the word will get out and we’ll spread some more sunshine,” Okubo said.

Scroll down for more photos of Okubo’s art in Lake Grove.

Top: Jennifer Okubo sitting outside her fence mural.