Fayetteville resident Olivia Trimble woke up, fumbled with her phone on the bedside table, and like plenty of us do a little too often, squinted to check Facebook before she even got out of bed last Friday morning.
But unlike most of us, what she found that morning changed the course of her day in a pretty profound way.
Trimble was tagged by a friend in a photo of some hateful graffiti that had appeared on the former Fayetteville City Hospital building. The friend asked if there was anything Olivia – as a professional sign painter by trade – could do about the hateful message.
She sprung out of bed and into action, and may have started somewhat of a worldwide movement in the process.
“When I saw that message something just clicked,” she said. “I just grabbed some paint, and headed out the door without even really thinking.”
Trimble drove straight to the site where the message had been written, and quickly painted over the graffiti with a hopeful message that she said had become a fallback phrase for her recently after a pretty brutal and divisive election cycle.
In big pink and green letters, she covered the graffiti with the words Love Always Wins.
She returned home, and posted a photo of her work to her own Facebook page, and that image began to spread online. Before she knew it, a movement called Repaint Hate was born.
“I just posted it to say, ‘If anyone sees anything else out there like this, let me know and I’ll cover it up as quickly as I can,'” Trimble said. “I just couldn’t fathom seeing something like that in Fayetteville. I couldn’t stand it.”
Soon, some locals started a GoFundMe account to help her cover her expenses, and other sign painters, graphic designers, and street artists began to ask how they could get involved.
Trimble realized she had hit a nerve, and wanted to empower these other artists. She started a Facebook page that gained over 3,000 followers in a matter of days.
“We’ve had artists from nearby Berryville, Arkansas, to Austin, Texas, to Copenhagen, Denmark reach out to jump on board,” she said. “I’ve been totally blown away by the response.”
Those artists have already begun covering the hateful messages they were finding in their own communities by painting over them, and creating printable designs to be placed over them when paint isn’t an option.
She said in addition to covering existing graffiti, she’s also received offers from property owners to paint positive messages and murals to their open wall spaces.
Trimble said covering up graffiti is a bit of a legal gray area, but that she’s taking measures to limit her liability.
“I’m making sure to document everything really well, to make sure it’s clear I’m not defacing anything, and that I’m truly covering up something hateful,” she said.
She’s been interviewed by local and national media about the phenomenon she created. Mic.com showed up to make a video of her highlighting the project last week, and an Upworthy reporter contacted her this week and is working on a story as well.
That’s likely just the beginning.
Trimble said she isn’t sure where the movement will go from here, but she is hoping to shift the focus of Repaint Hate pretty quickly.
“Personally, I hope we don’t have to cover any more hate speech,” she said. “I hope after this initial wave, that there can be an end to it, and I hope we can morph this into some kind of positivity project.”
Some of her ideas include utilizing the art created by the network of artists that have come together over this concept to create postcards to send to folks who need to see something uplifting, or using the funds raised as a result of the program to create more positive murals and public art around the country
“I really can’t predict how it’s going to go at this point,” she said. “It’s grown so quickly in such a short amount of time.”