May 2, 2014

Empty Bowls Fundraiser

Empty Bowls Fundraiser

Mary Ann Mason, College of The Albemarle ceramics teacher, clucked somewhat proudly over the collection of brightly hued, high gloss ceramic bowls she had assembled for the inaugural Empty Bowls of the Albemarle fundraiser on March 19.

After all, in addition to being a volunteer at the event, Mason also had a hand – literally – in creating many of the bowls given away during the charity event.

“I know I did 40 in one week,” Mason said, referring to the bowl-sized works of art she handcrafted from slabs of clay. “But I probably did about 60 to 70.”

For Mason, creating them was a labor of love. The bowls were given away to those who purchased the $15 ticket  to the luncheon, where attendees dined on a variety of soups and dessert donated by local restaurants Montero’s, Island Breeze Café, Cypress Creek Grill, Currituck BBQ, Famous Franks Hot Dogs and Grill, Farm Fresh and Kathy’s Kreations & Pineapple Café in Elizabeth City.

Community leaders volunteered to serve to the guests who dined in AoA’s Maguire Theater.   COA’s Suzanne Rohrbaugh, vice-president of Workforce Development and Continuing Education, ladled up ham and bean soup from Famous Frank’s.

Mason wasn’t the only one who created bowls for the event.

Many of her first semester COA art students and continuing education ceramics students also created bowls to donate to the fundraiser.  Mason – who was in charge of partnering with other local education programs to create bowls for the event – also solicited the help of area high school and elementary art students.

Currituck, Pasquotank County and Northeastern High School art students were also tasked with making the handcrafted dishes for the Empty Bowls fundraiser, as well as second and fourth graders at J.C. Sawyer Elementary in Elizabeth City.

Those attending the event were able to choose from the wide array of bowls on display and take one of the handcrafted dishes home with them.

Holly Wright, one of about 360 attendees at the kick-off event, selected a beautiful deep bowl with a rough pink-beige exterior and a glossy, cobalt blue interior. The contrasting surfaces drew Wright to the bowl. The creation, the handiwork of one of J.C. Sawyer Elementary School’s art students, only added to its appeal.

“That’s one talented child,” Wright said. “I love the color and the texture on the outside. It’s kind of like an oyster shell.”

In addition to Wright’s oyster-shell style bowl, there were bowls shaped like leaves, animals and even a a piece of Swiss cheese. 

“This is the first year it’s ever been done here in the area,” said Mason, referring to the fundraiser which is part of an international grassroots effort to end hunger and benefits local hunger relief organizations like Food Bank of the Albemarle.

“I’ve been wanting for years to do Empty Bowls, and I think it’s a huge success,” Mason added. “This is beyond my expectations. This is what you dream of.  I hope we do it every year.”

Although the colorful bowls lined up on tables on the event made a beautiful artistic impression, Liz Reasoner, executive director of Food Bank of the Albemarle, said the handcrafted works represented much more than that.

“This is an event that goes hand-in-hand with hunger,” Reasoner said. “The bowl is symbolic of the meals that are missing in our community. There are in essence about 11 million missing meals in our 15-county region and people have to look to emergency food providers to help them bridge that gap.”

Reasoner expects the Food Bank of the Albemarle will raise nearly $15,000 from the event which the agency will use to provide about 60,000 meals for area families this year.

Mason’s help contacting other art programs throughout the area and finding local art students to support the project, Reasoner said, was essential to the event’s success.

“The kids did a fantastic job,” Reasoner added. “The kids understood inherently why they were making these bowls.”

The event, held at Arts of the Albemarle, was so well-attended that planning for next year’s Empty Bowls fundraiser has already begun.

While not all of the bowls were perfectly orb-shaped specimens, the variances in design mattered little to those eager to pick one of the brightly colored dishes created for a good cause. Mason said even the bowls made by her art students were hard to create because her students are still learning the pulling techniques necessary to get the clay to yield to their designs.

What was more important, Mason said, was all the heart students put into their designs, fashioning creations they were happy to donate to help raise money to fight hunger in the community.

“I was really excited to do the project and include the school and the students,” Mason said. “I think they did some wonderful work.”

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