University of New England Ceramics class students gather to show dozens of ceramic bowls they created for the ‘Empty Bowls’ fundraiser on Friday evening on the UNE campus. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — At its most basic element, creating art is truly about building a foundation and that’s a lesson University of New England students took to heart when they chose to stage an event for “Empty Bowls,” an initiative to fight hunger worldwide.

Under the director of UNE Professor Charles Thompson, founder of the school’s Department of Fine Arts, students in two ceramics courses this semester were inspired to fashion stoneware clay bowls, glaze them and then host an event in which the bowls were sold for charity.

“I’m so very proud of what they have accomplished,” Thompson said. “It’s so good for them psychologically and working with their hands is very Zen and very therapeutic.”

UNE junior Olivia Scott from Milford, Massachusetts, a biology and environmental services major and an art therapy minor, came up with the idea to turn the ceramic bowls into an “Empty Bowls” fundraiser for The Locker Project, which helps ensure food security for children by providing class-time snacks and healthy foods they can take home for the times they are most likely to experience hunger, in the evening, over weekends, and during school breaks.

“I had heard about The Locker Project and how they are supporting in-school food pantries in Maine,” Scott said. “In talking with other students, we researched it and thought this would be a fun way to do our part to help out.”

Thompson’s students created more than eight dozen bowls for the event and tickets were sold for $10 to students and $15 for non-students.

Scott said that the event was sold out and all 86 ceramic bowls offered were sold, raising a total of $1,313 for donation to The Locker Project.

Participants gathered in the Danielle Ripich Commons Building on the UNE campus on Friday evening and selected a bowl, filled it with either Vegan Chili, Meat Chili or Broccoli and Cheddar Soup, with all proceeds then donated to The Locker Project. There also was a Silent Auction for participants to bid on ceramic mugs, a plant and planter, ceramic tea pots made by Thompson and a pet portrait painted by Sarah Gorham.

Sodexo and several individuals donated soup and homemade chili which was served with bread and beverages and participants got to take home their ceramic bowls.

UNE junior Olivia Scott displays a ceramic bowl she made and glazed for the ‘Empty Bowls’ fundraiser. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

The ‘Empty Bowls’ initiative was founded by Lisa Blackburn and art teacher John Hartom in 1990, when they joined a drive to raise charitable funds in Hartom’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 and their finished products were then used as serving pieces for a fundraising meal of soup and bread.

Caitlin Galea, a sophomore nursing student from Peterborough, New Hampshire, was one of the students who created bowls for the fundraiser.

“I thought it was a great idea and had never heard of ‘Empty Bowls’ before,” Galea said. “Once it was explained I wanted to be a part of this. It goes for a really good cause.”

Sophomore psychology student Brianna Jewett from Woburn, Massachusetts, said she’s also an art therapy major and is fascinated by the process of creating artwork.

“I really like art and wanted to take as many classes as I could,” Jewett said. “At first when we were making the ceramic bowls it was very hard and pretty frustrating. But once I got the hang of it, I was cranking out bowls like crazy.”

Thompson said students used a potter’s wheel to create the bowls.

“The stoneware clay dries to leather hard and then it’s trimmed,” Thompson said. “The bowl is then set with high fire and glazed and painted.”

He said on average it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to create a bowl from start to finish.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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