SPARTANBURG — Hub City Empty Bowls 2018 marks 10 years of pottery bowl-making as a way to raise funds that feed hungry people in Spartanburg who are not sure where their next meal is coming from.
To celebrate 10 years of helping the public make thousands of hand-shaped pottery bowls and donating tens of thousands of dollars to local charity that provides food to the needy, the lead agency Carolina Clay Artists will add a special event to its lineup of activities. In addition to three bowl-making sessions and Soup Day, “10 Years of Filling Empty Bowls” will be a ticketed party on Friday, Sept. 28, at Indigo Hall in downtown Spartanburg. Patrons will purchase $50 advance tickets that will admit them to the event and will include first dibs on selecting pottery bowls (one bowl is included in the ticket price); beer, wine, and finger foods; and a silent auction. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased by calling Traci Kennedy at 864-585-9167, ext. 202 or emailing her at [email protected]
“This is a special year, and we wanted to do something special to celebrate,” Hub City Empty Bowls 2018 Chair Bruce Bowyer said. “After nine years of doing this, we’ve noticed some things that people really like about Hub City Empty Bowls. They like the pottery bowls. They like looking at them and getting the ones they really want based on shape, color, and personality. They like being together.
“People really have a good time when they attend bowl-making sessions or Soup Day,” he said. “They like coming together for a common cause. So, we are giving them another opportunity to enjoy what they like the most. The night before Soup Day, we’ll host this party for people who want the best selection of bowls and who want another reason to get together in their efforts to end local hunger. I think a good time will be had by all, and, of course, all of the money will be given to TOTAL Ministries, the local faith-based charity that provides food to local people in dire financial straits.”
In recent years, Hub City Empty Bowls as averaged donating about $33,000 a year to TOTAL Ministries, which now helps with the administration of the annual event, freeing members of Carolina Clay Artists to focus their efforts on actual pottery making.
“Carolina Clay Artists has filled many empty stomachs in Spartanburg in the past nine years,” TOTAL’s Director Traci Kennedy said. “So many people — not just the homeless but average people who have lost jobs or fallen on hard times — have been saved from the pangs of hunger because someone made a pottery bowl and someone else bought it.
“Hub City Empty Bowls is a grassroots effort that has struck a nerve in Spartanburg,” she said. “It is much anticipated and much loved. It is a creative program, it is an inclusive program, it is an effective program. Look at it this way: a $20 pottery bowl produces about 100 pounds of food from the local food bank. One hundred pounds of food can feed a family of four for about a week.”
According to Feeding America, a leading national agency dedicated to stopping hunger, about 13.6 percent or 39,690 people in Spartanburg are “food insecure,” which is usually defined as people who aren’t sure if they will have their next meal. The State of South Carolina has a rate of 15.3 percent or 746,810 people out of the total population of 4,896,146, based on 2017 statistics.
“Spartanburg may not be the worst county in the state for food insecurity, but we certainly have a problem,” Kennedy said. “I see it every week as people who need help line up outside our doors.”
The first bowl-making session will be Saturday, June 16, at Spartanburg Art Museum (SAM), housed at Chapman Cultural Center. The morning session will be 10 a.m. to noon; the afternoon session will be 1-3 p.m. Anyone can attend, and there is no charge. All clay, studio space, and professional instruction are donated. This is an excellent family event.
The second bowl-making session will be Saturday, July 7, at West Main Artists Co-op, 1-4 p.m. The third and final bowl-making session will be Saturday, July 14, at SAM, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m.
Soup Day will be Saturday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Indigo Hall. Hundreds of finished pottery bowls will be on display and available for purchase/donation at $20 each. Included in the day’s activities will be about two dozen gourmet soups donated by local restaurants. The meal will include tea, water, and bread. Also, there will be live music.
“Bowl making is the creative part of Hub City Empty Bowl,” Bowyer said. “Individuals and families come to experience pottery or to scratch a creative itch. Soup Day is when it all comes together. I’ve seen people get a dozen or more bowls at a time. They use them for Christmas gifts, and I know of one lady who gets them to be used at her Thanksgiving meal. Then they all congregate to eat soup, listen to the music, and feel good about helping others. It really is one of Spartanburg’s most heartwarming events.”
This year’s sponsors are West Main Artists Co-op, Spartanburg Art Museum, Chapman Cultural Center, Allegra Printing, JM Smith Corp., and Chris Williams.
Empty Bowls is an international phenomenon that uses art to fight hunger in local communities. It started in 1990, when Michigan high school art teacher John Hartom wanted to create an outreach program for his students to use art as a means to raise money that would be used to feed local citizens. From there, the concept spread globally, with each community tweaking the concept to fit its unique circumstances. Most communities engage local potters to help citizens make pottery bowls that are eventually sold at a public event, such Hub City Empty Bowls’s Soup Day. Other communities use different types of art and/or different fundraising events. There is no centralized authority: each community coordinates its program based on the original concept but individualizes it to suit its ways, means, and goals.
For more information about “10 Years of Filling Empty Bowls” or Hub City Empty Bowls, please visit online HubCityEmptyBowls.com.
Steve Wong is a freelance writer and promoter who has worked with Empty Bowls for the past 10 years.