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Maven Dolph said the mural at her business is art, not graffiti. Photo by Jeff Prince

The mural could be considered a bit, er, busy. Late last year, a River Oaks city inspector took one look at the mish-mash splash of colors, hearts, crescent moons, stars, and numbers painted on the side of Maven’s Moon Apothecary & Faery Cottage and deemed it graffiti.

Remove it, the owner was told.

One inspector’s graffiti, however, is another green witch’s fine art.

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Maven Dolph, owner of Maven’s Moon, said the artist – Jonezy of Fort Worth – is no slouch.

“He has an art degree,” Dolph said. “It can’t be considered graffiti. It’s street art.”

City Manager Marvin Gregory said the inspector “looked at it as graffiti because of all the symbols on there.”

Dolph has been feeling picked on by city inspectors for various other infractions since opening her business a year ago. She began posting on social media about her situation, asking people if they were offended by the mural and expressing displeasure at how city employees seem so eager to pounce on a single mom with six kids trying to run a business.

She put comfortable chairs on her business’s front patio so customers could relax in the sun. Code Enforcement said no.

 Same went with the piano.

“Sadly, we had to get rid of the piano, too,” Dolph said. “One lady came shopping one day, and I could hear her playing out there. She came in and said, ‘I haven’t played in 10 years. This is exactly what I needed. I feel so much better.’ ”

Dolph’s business is across the street from an elementary school, and she began placing books on shelves for children. Leave a book. Take a book. No charge. Just read. 

Code Enforcement wasn’t happy.

“They told me to take it down,” she said. “I don’t know why it was offensive. Every day, the kids came.”

A city has rules, I told her. Maybe the bookshelves weren’t secured, and kids might climb on them and pull them down on top of them. There are reasons for rules, I said. Shouldn’t she obey them?

Dolph agreed that rules are necessary. She has corrected each problem that has been brought to her attention, she said. She has been forced to correct non-problems as well, she said.

A city official complained about the original sign above her front entrance – “Maven’s Moon Apothecary & Massage Studio” – and told her to remove “massage studio” because she was across the street from an elementary school. Dolph hired someone to climb on the roof and paint “faery cottage” over “massage studio.”

Later, however, Dolph discovered there was no ordinance prohibiting a massage studio at her location. 

Gregory said the rebuke over having “massage studio” on the sign wasn’t because of the proximity to the school. It was because Dolph had been slow to prove she was a licensed massage therapist, he said.

“She finally showed me proof of license, but it took a while,” he said.

Baloney, Dolph countered. She received no letters from Gregory or other city officials regarding her license. Why would she open a massage studio if she weren’t licensed, she asked? Being forced to remove “massage studio” from her sign and flyers has hurt her business and cost her profits, she said. Her license has been displayed in her business since she opened, she said.

Some city officials, including Gregory, have been friendly and encouraging, but a few have harassed her because of the nature of her business, Dolph said.

“I think they feel like I’m a witch, and if we were in the 1800s, they’d probably burn me at the stake,” she said. “I’m not going to give up. I love it here.”

I asked Gregory if city officials are harassing Dolph.

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said.

Dolph sells crafts and paintings done by herself and other local artists and runs a metaphysical store with locally made elixirs, many of them containing herbs grown in the community garden she tends behind her store. She boils mixtures of cinnamon water and herbs in a copper bowl to do pedicures and manicures. She sells spiritual growth tools such as crystals and oils. She casts love spells and uses her crystal necklace to perform energy work to “releases any depression or sadness that people have,” she said.

Her monthly full moon gatherings draw as many as 30 or 40 people. 

“We all stand in the circle together as brothers and sisters of love and light,” Dolph said. “We call upon whatever deity you call upon. It may be Jesus, Buddha. It may be the faeries. Whoever it is you call upon for love and light, I don’t judge, as long as we are of that vibration.”

The property on Roberts Cut Off Road seemed like the perfect fit after Dolph noticed it was up for lease. The address is 1111. Dolph tries to manifest – or envision that wishes and desires become real – at 11:11 a.m. and 11:11 p.m. each day.

“If I see [11:11] on the clock, I stop the car,” she said. “My kids think I’m crazy. I say, ‘Everybody manifest.’ The veil to the spirit world is really thin at that time –– 11:11. That’s when you take a minute, breathe … you have a whole minute to do that twice a day.”

Dolph has been relatively successful in her fight to save the mural. After posting about the flap on Facebook, she heard positive responses from many residents, some of whom have accompanied her to city council meetings. During a recent meeting, some city officials characterized the mural as trashy and worried that it might promote other graffiti with swastikas or questionable matter.

Dolph said her mural contains nothing offensive.

“To me, it symbolizes your inner beauty and that this is the place to find that,” she said.

City officials are set to discuss the creation of a mural ordinance at a workshop on Saturday, Feb. 22. In the meantime, no action is being taken against Dolph and her mural.

UPDATE: After we went to press, City Manager Marvin Gregory provided verification that he had sent Maven Dolph emails asking her to provide proof of her massage therapist license prior to her being told to change her sign. Gregory said city officials have only attempted to obtain compliance and are not interested in treating Dolph or any one else unfairly. The emails discuss Dolph’s certificate of occupancy and ask her to provide her massage therapist license, which she eventually did.

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