This time every year, students in Bill Faltinoski's Ceramics II class learn to sculpt figures. This semester, though, the project went beyond molding and glazing.
Their finished pieces turned up in places as far away as Tucson, the Rocky Mountains and Cancun, and as close as Cary, Prospect Heights and Schaumburg.
It was all part of Operation Hidden Angels: Students were instructed to place their completed sculptures anywhere in the world, in the hopes that a stranger would unexpectedly find it.
Faltinoski says that he drew his inspiration from the Infinity Project developed by glass artist Josh Simpson. Since 2000, Simpson has left his glass marbles, or "planets," hidden everywhere.
While some are meant to be found, others are not, he says. It's all about making art accessible to people who may not seek it out otherwise.
"I like the idea of reaching a totally new audience for my glass," Simpson says. Faltinoski, a fan of the artist, agrees.
"In Ceramics II, we ask students to go beyond the mechanics of sculpture," Faltinoski says, "and to reflect on the outcome of their experiences while exploring cultural, historical and religious connections with their art."
Mission accomplished, he says.
Students started out by considering the concept of angels, Faltinoski said, "and how they are symbols of protectors and helpers, who come into our lives when we need them most."
Once completed, the angels spread their wings and departed for places unknown. Each one wore a tag that explained the project, and encouraged the finders to respond. Students wanted to know whether the angels had any meaning for them.
Jim Hannah found the angel made by senior Dean Dimitri of Palatine while hiking on the Blackett's Ridge Trail in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, outside Tucson, Ariz.
"What a curious project -- and quite creative on your part," Hannah wrote. "We believe that God's sovereign and providential protection includes his holy angels.
"Whether standing at a precarious point like the end of Blackett's Ridge, or in an airplane a half-mile above the earth, I find comfort that I am in the safety of God's loving care," he wrote. "Your angel reminded me of that."
Deanna LeRose of Cary, found the angel made by junior Stephen Todd of Cary while out on a walk in a wooded forest preserve area near her home. She often seeks the tranquillity of the area, she says, where she finds time to reflect and pray.
"When I read your message, it became personal," LeRose wrote. "It was an emotional experience for me.
"I believe that we each have our own 'spirit team' that watches over us on our life's journey," she wrote. "I actually talk to my team after my prayers, to ask for their protection and oversight in my life."
Finding the angel, she said, was a reminder that her team does listen and is there for her.
"I think the whole project was awesome," she wrote. "Stephen picked a really special place to leave his angel."
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