By Jarett Greben
While ceramics students may spend hour after hour in class deliberating whether they should make their clay creations in a pinch or box form, or with a glaze or matte finish, they often give little thought to what they will do with their pieces after they come out of the kiln. That changed four years ago when Ms. Colleen Campbell, ceramics and art teacher, decided to run the Empty Bowls charitable fundraiser created by The Imagine Render Group, enlisting 200 students from the fall and spring semester classes and other teachers in the department to join the project.
Students from all different ceramic classes have chosen to construct one-of-a-kind bowls to raise money in an attempt to help feed the hungry. “I am a strong believer in using your talents and knowledge not just for personal gain, but to think of ways to help others,” said Ms. Campbell.
The largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S., Feeding America, reports that 1 out of 8 Americans battle with food insecurity every day. During the last recession, millions got laid off or lost their jobs and as a result the number of people who receive food stamps has increased considerably. “The idea behind it is simple,” added Campbell. “There are many people who sit down to an empty bowl each day at mealtime. A bowl is created as a symbol of this problem.”
Students seek out a person to sponsor their bowl for a suggested donation of ten dollars. The sponsor is then asked to keep the beautiful handcrafted piece as a reminder of all the hunger in the world, and the money is donated to a local soup kitchen. “For the past few years, we have donated our proceeds to the INN, a soup kitchen in Hempstead. Enough money was raised to feed hundreds of men, women, and children for a day. Several students get to see the fundraiser come full circle by going to the INN to prepare and serve the meal,” explained Ms. Campbell.
The student response to this project has been amazing, with many students wanting to create multiple bowls. “It is great to help people who are not as fortunate as I am,” said sophomore Andrew Voigt, who is participating in the fundraiser for his second year. This year he is contributing a bowl with a dark blue center and a wavy light-blue lip equipped with chopstick holders.
The benefits go beyond the hungry and the recipients of the handmade ceramics. “Each year is equally, if not more, successful than the next,” said Ms. Campbell. “With each new year, we teach and encourage hundreds more that there are others beside themselves.”