Last week, ceramics students in the Department of Art and Art History donated handmade ceramic soup bowls to the 5th Annual Empty Bowls event hosted by the University Presbyterian Church, helping to raise more than $1,000 for food charities in our Just a few bowls left halfway through a successful lunch fundraiser at this year's Empty Bowls.community.

Studio art graduate students in ceramics Sydney Ewerth, Joani Inglett and Heather Whidden, and undergraduates Jenna Cape, Kelby Cox, Meg Howton, Birgitte Kalmbach, Nicole Welch and Kady Wohlfarth, along with members of Kentuck’s Clay Co-op and patrons of All Fired Up! contributed bowls to this year’s event on April 10. Local chefs and restaurants in Tuscaloosa donated soup and musicians Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse entertained diners to help raise money for University Presbyterian’s Food Pantry and West Alabama Food Bank.

Tuscaloosa’s Empty Bowls is part of a national campaign that engages the arts community to help fight hunger. For $10, donor-diners chose one of dozens of beautiful handmade bowls and received a simple meal of bread and soup. Ann Webb, retired Director of Undergraduate Research and the Emerging Scholars Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, helped organize this local Empty Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse made music for diners at Empty Bowls.Bowls. She said the money raised by this year’s event “translates into a lot of food from the West Alabama Food Bank. The church buys food from the Food Bank and distributes it to people in the community who are in need.” Money raised will allow the church to purchase and distribute more than 100,000 pounds of food from WAFB.

It all started five years ago when Webb saw an Empty Bowls event in Asheville, NC. She proposed to ceramics professor Lowell Baker that UA ceramic students join the event sponsored by University Presbyterian Church. When Baker retired from UA, Daniel Livingston, adjunct instructor of ceramics, continued the department’s participation. Our current assistant professor of ceramics, Matt Mitros, has brought a new wave of students to participate.

Webb said that the program is a much-needed joint effort among local people, businesses and students from the university. She and the other organizers of Tuscaloosa’s Empty Bowls welcome the students’ enthusiastic participation in this community project: “The bowls this year were especially interesting and creative,” she added, “with lots of color and a big dash of good humor. I am immensely UA alumnus Laura Hunter poses with her matching bowls made by UA art studentsappreciative of their giving their time and energies to this good project.” Several individuals and local restaurants contributed soup including Surin of Thailand, Chuck’s Fish, Zoe’s Kitchen, Manna Grocery and The Cypress Inn. Webb explained how vital this effort is: “The food bank is very important to this community. I am both surprised and saddened by the extent of the need for food in our community. The level of need is shocking and I am so glad that UA students contribute through programs like Empty Bowls and Beat Auburn, Beat Hunger.”

April 15, 2015