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My story on making the sign for Hoo Haven

Jade Stone's Hoo Haven Sign

This past fall, my mom saw a Facebook post that Hoo Haven was looking for an artist to volunteer their time to paint a new sign for the road. We discussed it, and I decided to submit my name. I figured worst-case, I'm not chosen. I realized that it is the start of my senior year and third year in AP Art with Auburn CAPA, and while I don't have the experience of an established artist, I love a challenge and giving back to my community.

Hoo Haven is an amazing organization. Karen, Steven, and their team of volunteers are the heart of the program. A couple weeks go by of going back-and-forth emailing different types of sketches that Karen has requested to see what I can do. Then, she chose me! After being selected to make the sign, I met Karen in person on November 2nd to discuss the details. She shared her vision of bright colors with unique markings of a warm and inviting Great Horned Owl. She let me know that because the wood signs they have used in the past haven't held up due to weather, a friend was donating a 4' X 4' piece of sheet metal for the sign. At the time, I didn't think twice about the change in the surface, I just went to work on my rough draft and color scheme.

Hoo Haven Art

Once it was approved, I started researching how to paint on a metal surface for outdoors and realized what a challenge I took on. I discussed it with my CAPA Art teacher, different artists, and Blick Art Materials. My mom and I drove to the Blick Art store in Schaumburg to meet the manager in person. They were so knowledgeable and helpful and guided me to the products I would need to use. After discussing the pros and cons of the type of paint that would have to be used on metal for an outdoor sign, and that I didn't have access to a space with proper ventilation for a job like this, I had to go back to Karen and tell her the project was on hold until I could find a solution.

The problem is metal isn't porous, so the paint can't adhere to the surface. The first step would be to wash it and wipe with rubbing alcohol to prime it. Then, sand the metal in various directions to give the paint something to hold on to, and then seal it numerous times in hopes that it doesn't just peel off. But the bigger problem that I was warned about was the health issues I could face from breathing in that type of paint. My mom helped me with my search for a solution and we came up with a list of companies to contact to help us. She reached out to various people and organizations while I was in school.

In early December, Crystal Spencer of Signs Now Rockford explained how I could paint the sign on an 11" x 11" piece of canvas paper (no limit on colors), and then they would scan and enlarge the painting to print on a piece of 4'x4' vinyl that can then be applied to the metal. It will last approximately 5-7 years. I presented the idea to Karen, and we both agreed to proceed with the plan. I finished the painting on January 31st. I had to work on it while finishing my AP 3D Art projects for my senior portfolio that were due by the end of the first semester. I met Karen & Steven from Hoo Haven at Signs Now on Friday, February 2, 2024. They turned my painting into the sign you now see welcoming you at Hoo Haven.

I was able to use this project as volunteer hours towards meeting the requirements for National Honors Society. I hope my painting brings joy to everyone that visits Hoo Haven, and when they look at it, they are reminded that there is a solution to every problem -- sometimes we have to take a step back and pause to find it. Please consider supporting Hoo Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center by volunteering or attending their events. 

Special Thank You to the following: Karen & Steven at Hoo Haven. I am grateful that you chose me to make your new sign to welcome guests to your amazing wildlife animal rescue center. This experience has allowed me to grow as an artist and learn how to problem solve along the way. Thank you for everything you do for our community. Crystal Spencer, of Signs Now Rockford, THANK YOU! Without your help and guidance, I would not have found a solution. Mrs. Wood, my CAPA Art Teacher at RPS 205 Auburn, THANK YOU! Without your guidance these past four years I would not have had the confidence and understanding to take on a volunteer community service project in the middle of completing my senior portfolio. I will always be grateful for my time in your classroom. You truly make a difference. And as always, to my family, for believing in me and supporting me in everything I do!


Jade Stone is a senior at Auburn High School in the CAPA Academy. She is in her third year of AP Art and will graduate in June 2024. She plans on attending college in the fall to pursue her BFA in Fine Arts with a minor in Business. She volunteered her time to complete this project.