Where can you receive a handmade ceramic bowl, enjoy delicious soups and desserts, have fun playing games with family and friends and donate to Northampton Area Food Bank and Bath Area Food Bank all at the same time?
At the Empty Bowls event, of course!
Make sure you pencil in 5-7:30 p.m. March 28 on your calendar. The event takes place in the cafeteria of Northampton Area Middle School, 1617 Laubach Ave., Northampton.
The Empty Bowls Project began with artists John Hartom and Lisa Blackburn in the early 1990s. Hartom was a ceramics teacher at a high school in Michigan. His students made 120 bowls to be used at the first-ever Empty Bowls event.
Over time, the project became so popular that it is duplicated all over the country — and the world. Today, it is considered a movement.
The mission of the project is to use ceramic arts to fight hunger. At an Empty Bowls event, money is raised for food banks or food kitchens through donations when a bowl is purchased and from other monetary donations to help the cause. Soups and other foods are served in the handmade bowls and are taken home to remind those attending the event that many people have empty bowls and go hungry around the world.
The three Northampton Area School District teachers leading this second annual event for the local community are Holly Weitknecht, ninth- through 12th-grade art teacher; Erin Miller, sixth- through eighth-grade art teacher; and Jennifer Gerhart, sixth-grade art teacher.
In an interview with Weitknecht, Miller and Gerhart Feb. 26, the three teachers could hardly contain their excitement about the upcoming event and how the process of creating these one-of-a-kind bowls is going.
“There’s just been a ton of support. We can’t even tell you how awesome the staff is,” Miller said.
“When we started it last year, we thought maybe like 50 bowls, if that, and we’d do something small,” Gerhart said.
Those 50 bowls turned into 120 bowls. This year, students, and some teachers, have made around 200 bowls.
The number of students participating increased for 2019, too. Last year, 30 students created bowls for the event. For the March 28 event, 60 students have been active in the creative process.
Students started making the bowls just before Christmas and continued into January, and the glazing process occurred the end of February. Some students created the bowls; some did the glazing; and some students did both. After the glazing is done, the bowls are fired in the kiln for a second time.
There is more to the event than just making bowls, the three teachers said. Several clubs, departments and students of both NAHS and NAMS are helping prepare for the event and will be volunteering at the event. Students in civics classes made place mats with recipes, world hunger facts and information on different types of foods. Students also created decorations that will be displayed in the cafeteria. Other students are making commercials to play on the television station for advertising. At the event, students, staff and other individuals will be washing dishes, setting up and cleaning up, among other duties that go into making sure an event goes smoothly.
Also planned for the Empty Bowls event is a basket raffle.
There will be a K-Kids Clothing Closet clothing drive, put together by the physical education department and the seventh-grade social studies department. The departments are seeking to stock the closet with clean, gently used clothing items for NAMS students. The closet will be open for anyone to shop during the Empty Bowls event.
And don’t forget about the food. Local businesses and individuals donate the soups, salads and desserts for the event. Last year, pierogies, chili, bread and cake were also available.
Anything that can fit in a bowl is more than welcome to be donated, Miller said.
It’s a cooperative effort, the teachers agreed.
Some of the designs on the bowls last year included various textures, which involve stamping, carving and shaping, abstract paintings, flowers, buttons and animals.
“The whole process of making art is problem solving,” Weitknecht said. “From step one to the very end of a piece that you’re going to make, everything goes through all the stages and changes, and it’s all toward this end game. Sometimes, that end game changes in the first place, too, and sometimes, you don’t even know what that’s going to be.
“But for [students] to see that you can use that same process that can take all of these alterations and all of these creative thoughts and thinking and apply that to problem solving in the real world,” Weitknecht said, “it’s a very valuable teaching moment for us as educators.”
“I’ve seen some things where kids make this huge impact on our world if we don’t tell them, ‘no,’ and we encourage them to keep going,” Gerhart said.
Ticket sales last year came in at 128, plus small children and many volunteers. Weitknecht, Miller and Gerhart are hoping that number greatly increases.
Last year, the teachers kept between $150 to $200 to be able to replenish more clay and glazes. Everything else went directly to Northampton Area Food Bank. That donation was around $2,400. This year, money raised from the event will be donated to not only NAFB but also Bath Area Food Bank.
The three art teachers have wanted to start an Empty Bowls event for the community for quite a while. In 2018, they all agreed to just start it.
“I wish we would have started sooner,” Gerhart said, “but at least we started. And now it’s happening a second time.”
“Having [NAMS and NAHS students] be able to see that something they’re making here gets to impact their friends and neighbors and families is really, really cool,” Miller said.
A donation of $20 includes a handmade ceramic bowl (limited bowls available) and food. The bowls are food safe, do not have lead and can go in the dishwasher. If you would like to enjoy the meal but do not desire a bowl, you may bring your own bowl for a requested donation of $10. Children 3 and under eat for free.
Two snow dates are planned — April 4 and April 11 — in case of bad weather.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2vOYKJh.