Empty Bowls

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Empty Bowls” is an international project to fight hunger, personalized by artists and art organizations on a community level.

The promotion and growth of the project is managed by The Imagine/RENDER Group, a 501(c)3 organization. However, each community’s events are self developed and independent. The project expands one group of concerned artists and students at a time, and events are currently held in many areas in the United States and Canada, often in conjunction with the United Nations sponsored World Food Day. “Empty Bowls” now supports food related charities around the world and has raised millions of dollars to aid in the fight against hunger.

Charitable concept[edit]

“Empty Bowls” allows participating artists and groups to create and donate bowls, then serve a simple meal. In some communities, ceramic artists are joined by wood turners, glassblowers, fiber artists, metal smiths, painters, sculptors, and other artists and craftspeople. Guests choose a bowl to use that day and to keep as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. In exchange for the meal, and the bowl, guests contribute a suggested minimum donation. One hundred percent of each meal's proceeds are devoted to local hunger-fighting organizations, such as food banks or soup kitchens, or to national or international charitable groups.

“Empty Bowls” events can be sponsored by local potters and artists organizations, churches, community service organizations and schools. The expressed objectives of “Empty Bowls” are:

  • Raise as much money as possible to feed the world's hungry people. Lives are in the balance.
  • Increase awareness of hunger and related issues. Through education, awareness, and action, concerned individuals can change human attitudes that allow hunger to exist.
  • Advocate for arts education. Nurturing the creative process through the arts enhances the possibility of finding new solutions to old problems.

Project development[edit]

Founded by Lisa Blackburn and Art teacher John Hartom in 1990-91 when they joined a drive to raise charitable funds in his Michigan community. Hartom's idea was to organize a charitable event to give artists and art students a way to make a personal difference. Hartom's students made ceramic bowls in their high school art classes. The finished products were then used as individual serving pieces for a fund-raising meal of soup and bread. Contributing guests kept the empty bowl. During the next year, Hartom and other participants developed this concept into “Empty Bowls”. The Imagine/RENDER Group, a 501(c)3 organization, was created to promote the project.

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