Project SEARCH angel art soaring across nation

Project SEARCH interns helped to create angel artwork to sell to customers across the nation. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Project SEARCH interns helped to create angel artwork to sell to customers across the nation. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER –Project SEARCH intern Ben Whaley smiled at the thought of his creations one day making their way into the hands of folks across the United States.

“It’s a good picture,” Whaley said as he and 11 of his fellow Project SEARCH interns created a batch of angel paintings in their classroom at Shelby Baptist Medical Center on Aug. 20. “Maybe Texas, California or Mississippi. I’d like them to be in all the states.”

Artist Thomas Andrew made a visit to Project SEARCH’s office to work with the interns on the joint art venture. Project SEARCH works with special-needs students in Shelby County and Alabaster schools to offer the students internships at area businesses, and also works to find the students jobs after they graduate.

Through the partnership, Andrew makes donations to Project SEARCH to allow the program to upgrade its technology offerings, and the interns help Andrew construct angel-themed art pieces to sell at shows and shops across the country.

Over the past several months, some local retailers have taken notice of Project SEARCH’s angel artwork, and have started selling them in their stores. English Ivy Gifts off Doug Baker Boulevard in Greystone now carries the artwork, and Hoover’s Ross Bridge resort is preparing to add the items to its hotel gift shop.

Ross Bridge representative Faye Rivers, who visited the Project SEARCH interns on Aug. 20, said the artwork’s beauty and meaning made it attractive to the resort.

“We are hoping this helps to get the word out,” Rivers said of the paintings. “You never know what might happen next.”

Project SEARCH Job Coach Kim Kielbasa said the organization has sold about 200 paintings since the partnership began in December, including several sales at a recent expo in Nebraska.

“It’s (the interns’) own business,” Kielbasa said. “It helps them to open doors, and it gives them an opportunity to create something they may not get to otherwise.”