Empty Bowls

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

The promotion and growth of the project is managed by The Imagine/RENDER Group, a 501(c)3 organisation. Each community’s events are independent. The project expands one group of concerned artists and students at a time, and events take place 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 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, fibre 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. Some event organisers choose to serve soup in carry-out containers and the guests can choose to take a handmade bowl home. 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 organisations, 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 organisations, churches, community service organisations and schools. The expressed objectives of Empty Bowls are:

  • Raise money to feed the world's hungry people.
  • Increase awareness of hunger and related issues.
  • Advocate for arts education.

Project development[edit]

This project was founded by Lisa Blackburn and art teacher John Hartom in 1990-91 when they joined a drive to raise charitable funds in Hatrom's Michigan community. His 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 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 the Empty Bowls project. The Imagine/RENDER Group, a 501(c)3 organisation, was created to promote the project.

Local Empty Bowls events[edit]

Empty Bowls at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, occurs on the first Saturday of December. The event was established in 2004. All proceeds go to local soup kitchens and pantries, and the event has raised over $250,000 since its inception.


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