Work is progressing on ‘Empty Bowls’ project

Pocahontas County High School Visual Arts Teacher Diana Nelson and Pocahontas County Arts Council President Cynthia Gurerri show off two “Empty Bowls” painted by Nelson’s students. The goal is to have 100 bowls for the fundraiser. L.D. Bennett photo

Laura Dean Bennett
Contributing Writer

The Pocahontas County Arts Council is preparing to host its first “Empty Bowls” Dinner to benefit the Family Resource Network Food Pantry.

While the “Empty Bowls” concept is new to us, it’s actually a nationwide fundraising idea that began in Michigan in 1990 when Lisa Blackburn and art teacher, John Hartom were looking for ways to involve art students in projects that would make a difference in their community. 

Hartom’s students made ceramic bowls in their high school art classes. 

The finished products were then put up for sale to support a worthy cause.

Each person who bought a bowl was served dinner in their bowls at the fundraiser.

They called their idea, “Empty Bowls,” and it soon spread around the country.

And now, we’re doing it here.

Pocahontas County High School art teacher Diana Nelson looked around her classroom at her students diligently painting bowls and was pleased.

“This is so good for our students,” she said. “They get to help with a community service project and, as you can see, they really are enjoying doing it.” 

The students will also have the satisfaction of knowing that their art will be going home with someone to be enjoyed long after their purchase at the Empty Bowls dinner.

The meal will consist of soup and bread, prepared and served by students in the PCHS Culinary Arts class.

Guests will be invited to come and choose their favorite bowl – there will be various shapes and each will be uniquely decorated. 

The soup will then be served in the bowl each guest has chosen as their own.

But there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then.

They will be 100 bowls, all finished with food-safe glazes.

With the number of bowls to be made, it’s “all hands in the clay” for potters Kay Gillispie, Cynthia Gurreri, Alison Flegel and Eric Stahl, who signed on to “throw” the bowls for the project.

PCHS Visual Art students have already begun decorating the bowls and Culinary Arts students are working on their menu for a simple meal of soup and bread. 

Many other organizations and individuals will also have a hand in completing the bowls and preparing the dinner.

Gurerri says that this fundraiser is a “win-win for everybody – the artists, the students, everyone helping to organize and prepare the dinner, but most of all, our community.”

There will be entertainment at the event as well as a brief explanation of the work of the FRN Food Pantry. 

The fundraising event and dinner will take place Tuesday, October 26, at 6 p.m. in the Marlinton Municipal Auditorium. 

The Arts Council suggests a donation of $20 for each bowl – meal included.

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