JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Pet Paradise and a Jacksonville-area school are giving new opportunities to students with intellectual and developmental differences.
Students from North Florida School of Special Education unveiled a new piece of artwork Wednesday that will be displayed inside a newly opened Pet Paradise veterinary clinic.
"The painting is special because it's the first time we actually were commissioned by a company to make something that will hang in their office," said Jill Morrow, art manager of Art with Soul. "It was the largest scale we've done. It was 48 by 48. We knew that it was going to be a collaboration between our art students and our art teachers and volunteers."
The large painting took the students and teachers about two weeks to complete.
"It feels great. It's really a true honor and a wonderful way to draw more customers for our school but more customers for Pet Paradise as well," said Ben Kolster, a student at North Florida School of Special Education.
"Pretty, smart, we're passionate. And I know I do love art," said Hannah Thompson, another student.
Art with Soul is a partnership between the school and Pet Paradise.
Educators at the school said their students are able to connect with art in different ways, which helps them develop other essentials skills.
"It was a great way to expand my teamwork and social skills. But just work as a team to really show who we really are," said Kolster.
"They live from the true essence of who they are, and so art is an avenue for them to express who they are and their gifts," said Morrow.
Pet Paradise said it hopes to use art from the students in all of its veterinary facilities, and the school hopes many more pieces will follow.
For more information on the Art with Soul program, go to https://www.northfloridaschool.org/purchase-student-art/art-with-soul/.