Art for hunger

Students create bowls for project to help feed county's hungry

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 11:14 p.m.
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Pam Forrestel, a University of Florida art education graduate student, talks to freshman Jamie Freshour about the bowl she's making for the Empty Bowls project, which raises funds to feed Alachua County's hungry.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun


Empty Bowls

  • What: A simple lunch, entertainment, and a ceramic bowl in exchange for a $10 donation. Fund-raiser sponsored by the UF student chapter of the National Art Education Association to benefit the Alachua County Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless.

  • Where: Reitz Union Ballroom, University of Florida

  • Tickets: $10, Omni Books, 99 SW 34th St.

  • For more information: Call Pam Forrestel, (352) 271-9017, or E-mail to

  • Most of our bowls are not empty. If anything, they're a little too full. (How many of us made resolutions to exercise more in 2004, cut down on carbohydrates and walk more?)
    But some don't have to worry about having too much. Theirs is a world of "too little."
    In the realm of Not Enough, paychecks don't stretch through the end of the week. Refrigerators stand empty. Maybe the stars shine overhead instead of a roof, and dinner is what's wrapped in foil in a coat pocket.
    In this territory, bowls are literally and figuratively empty.
    Art to the rescue. Since last fall, local art students and teachers have been making ceramic bowls in preparation for the Empty Bowls fund-raiser, which will have its debut in Gainesville on Feb. 22.
    At the Empty Bowls event, you'll be served a simple lunch of vegetarian soup, bread and water - similar to what you'd get at a soup kitchen - in exchange for a $10 donation to benefit the Alachua County Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless. Afterward, you'll keep your bowl as a reminder that there is hunger in the world.
    Lunch is not the only thing on the menu. The event includes speakers, entertainment, a slide show and community dialogue. "Celebrity bowls" by professional artists Diane Farris, Kate Murray and Frank Digangi also will be available at a silent auction.
    "I believe that art should help the community," said organizer Pam Forrestel, a University of Florida graduate student in art education who was inspired to bring the event to Gainesville.
    UF's student chapter of the National Art Education Association is the sponsor of the event, but it's become a county-wide project. Students and teachers at Lawton Chiles, Stephen Foster, Duval, Lake Forest and Newberry elementary schools all made bowls.
    The kids at Howard Bishop Middle and Oak Hall middle and high also jumped on the bowl bandwagon. UF ceramic and art education students helped round out the bowls for a grand total of 300.
    "We're hoping to get a large student turnout," said Jim O'Donnell, president of the art education association and a UF art education student. "Those are the people who are going to directly affect homeless policies in the future, so it would be nice to reach a lot of young people."
    The national event had its beginnings in 1990 when a high school class in Michigan was searching for a way to raise money for a food drive.
    With the help of their art teacher, the students created a class project that involved making ceramic bowls for a fund-raising meal. Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder.
    Within a year, Empty Bowls developed into a project to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens and other organizations that fight hunger. Empty Bowl events have since raised millions of dollars toward fighting hunger.
    Glen Springs Elementary School art teacher Sue Johnson said she used "drape mold techniques" to make her bowls. She rolled out the clay and draped it over plaster bowls, removing the clay when it was dry enough to hold its shape. Then she invited her fifth-grade art students to glaze them.
    "Not only were the kids really into the idea of making this art and passing it on for someone to use," said Johnson, "but they liked being together and sharing the art-making experience."
    Students of Oak Hall art instructor Gary Bone made 40 bowls. "My middle and high school ceramic students all participated in the project. It was an extra-credit assignment, but the kids were more than happy to be involved in it. I personally like the project. It's a great use of art to help make some changes."
    Tickets, $10 each, are available at Omni Books. None will be sold at the door.
    Call Pam Forrestel, (352) 271-9017, or e-mail her at for more information.

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