Artful endeavor |

Artful endeavor

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

There is more to the kitschy signs atop the hill off Highway 49 than a form of advertisement or way to gain attention.

The signs belong to Old Barn Self Storage. The business held a school contest for the top three drawings for February, March and April and awarded cash prizes to students and their teachers to contribute toward the purchase of classroom art supplies.

“We take the 8 1/2-by-11 drawing and blow it up to make the sign,” said Stephen DeSena, vice president of Old Barn Self Storage. “Our underlying mission is to support elementary schools in art because we know art is underfunded, and we want to support creativity in schools.”

First place winners received $175, second place $100 and third place $50.

The first place winners were Megan Kiser, Union Hill third-grader, for February; Sadie Thompson, Union Hill fourth-grader, for March; and for April, Lexi Collins, Grass Valley second-grader.

The teachers of the winning students received a $200 cash prize to use in the classroom.

“When I got word about the contest, I talked to the kids about it, and just about all of them were familiar with the signs, and they were excited about giving it a try,” said Shelly Andersen, third-grade teacher at Union Hill. “You can see in general how arts don’t get a priority. This allows them to have a different way of expression.”

Andersen said she plans to use the money for an arts project for students or to bring in a local arts teacher to visit the class.

The idea for the signs came from a marketing idea DeSena had for the business.

“Stephen put letters up, and it surprisingly took off, and we just went with the traction,” said Jim Warne, facility owner. “Now it’s become a tradition.”

One of the main focuses of Old Barn Self Storage is to give back to and support the community, Warne said, and Old Barn Self Storage has worked with 27 local nonprofits.

“I’m a philosophical guy, and I believe that the profit will come, but giving back is the important thing,” Warne said. “Relationships work best when there is reciprocity.”

The storage facility has also functioned as an electronic waste drop off, where the revenue from the materials go to Union Hill School, Warne said.

“Our vision and mission statement is to focus on others’ needs rather than our own,” Warner said. “It’s been fun, and our underlying theme is to send a positive message that’s replicable, and a smile is replicable.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call (530) 477-4230.

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