Volume 97 Issue 9 News

Empty Bowls celebrates tenth anniversary at Juniata

by Jacob Novak

Juniata held its Empty Bowls charity event in Ellis Hall for its tenth anniversary at the College on April 2. All proceeds went to various food banks in Huntingdon County.

Empty Bowls is an event that became a trend after it began many years ago. “Empty Bowls is the nationwide effort to raise awareness about hunger in one’s local community,” said Associate Professor of Art Bethany Benson, one of the organizers of the Juniata event. “The first event was about 25 years ago. It was a high school teacher and his students, and the idea is that they make ceramic bowls, they partner with restaurants in the area who donate soup and then an event is held where the bowls and the soup come together.”

Benson went on to describe the process of how the event at Juniata works. “Adult tickets are now $12, ages six to ten are $7, and 5 and under are free,” said Benson. “With that ticket, you get to pick out a bowl, you get a soup of your choice, and you get to take the bowl with you as sort of a reminder of hunger in your own community.”

Lisa Baer, another organizer of the event and advisor of Catholic Council, detailed where the donations will be going. “The funds go to four food banks throughout Huntingdon County. There’s a Salvation Army in Huntingdon, a Huntingdon Food Pantry, the Southern Huntingdon Food Pantry and the Mount Union Food Pantry,” said Baer.

At this year’s event, another location for donations has been added. “The students have made a pledge to donate something to the two backpack programs at the elementary schools, Standing Stone and Southside,” said Baer. “The backpack programs are programs that staff and teachers run in those schools for students who may not have food over the weekend, so the send a backpack filled with food home with them on Friday.”

In a change from the past years of Empty Bowls, the event was held in Ellis Hall. “The Stone Church is a beautiful place to hold it, but we think about the amount of bowls we have and the amount of people that come in and cycle through, along with the idea of people having to possibly wait outside in rain. Moving it to Baker just makes it more accessible,” said senior Caitlin McCann, president of Mud Junkies, a student-based group focused on introducing ceramics to others

The idea of shorter soup lines was also a large motivator. “So we are moving from the Brethren Church to Baker, which we hope will diffuse the mile-long line that kind of emerges from the building because there will be a lot more space to go bowl shopping,” said Benson. “You might wait in line if it’s a popular soup, but hopefully that line will be five people instead of 25 people.”

The growth of the event at Juniata has not gone unnoticed. “We’ve grown tremendously. We’ve reached out to restaurants over the years and expanded our area for involving the restaurants,” said Baer.

The growth in interest has inspired a course based on  making bowls for the event. “We developed enough interest that there is now a course; now, there is course called Empty Bowls Practicum, and that follows the model that if you sign up for one credit, you have to make 50 bowls that make it to the end,” said Benson. “I can talk to them more about the aesthetic of the bowl, the function of the bowl, we talk about glazes and their function more extensively, and the bowls are a lot better.”

Benson recently had a talk at the National Ceramics conference with two other event coordinators. Here, she found other inspirations for the event’s future at Juniata. “They still do community bowl days, what they do is they have community groups come and do build-a-bowl days, and they want to come back and buy their own bowl.  We just let the floodgates open and maybe people will find their own bowl,” said Benson. “It was really eye-opening to listen and participate in that conversation, and it gave me a few ideas.”

To those who have not been around for all ten years of Empty Bowls at Juniata, they find the response encouraging. “I think it’s amazing, I personally haven’t seen an Empty Bowls event this big, my high school used to have them, but only a couple hundred people would come,” said McCann. “We raised over $5000 last year, which is pretty incredible for a small school and a small group of people. I think it’s amazing that we’re able to contribute this much.”

Robert Boryk, who has spent time behind the scenes in the bowl making process and lecturer in the art department, has also noticed the community reaction. “The volunteers on campus have been great, the students have come in on their own time, they don’t get paid, there’s no compensation, they don’t get free soup, and they don’t get a free bowl. They just help, and we get more than enough help that way,” said Boryk.

Boryk also commented on potential further expansion of the event. “I think there’s a lot of room growth. There’s a lot of interest in it, both on campus and in the community,” said Boryk. “I do believe we are going to try and do more outreach in the upcoming years to not only have the community come to the event, but also allowing them to come and help make and be more active in the process of making the bowls—being a little more hands-on.”

Junior Alex Stoudt went to the event for her first time this year. “It’s awesome, I love that it not only supports student work and simultaneously supporting local business but also supporting the local food pantry, so it all circles around,” said Stoudt. “I’m bummed I never came before, which is why I bought an extra bowl.”

Another student, freshman Nichole Leiby, decided to attend due to hearing the talk surrounding Empty Bowls. “People were really excited that day, so that’s what made me want to go, people thought it was a good cause,” said Leiby. “It’s a really cool idea and I really liked the bowls

Meanwhile, freshman Evan Quinter had heard of the event before, and said that he would go again. “It was for a great cause, having so many different types of soup was awesome, the entertainment was great, it was just a great atmosphere,” said Quinter. “It was awesome, I would even be willing to help out in the future.”

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