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By: Rose Hogmire 

The Center for Social Responsibility is gearing up for its annual Empty Bowls event, which provides students with a unique dual-opportunity to take part in service learning and hand-building ceramics. The event encourages students to conduct real conversations with one another about hunger in our community with the help of students in Ceramics I (Art 180). The students in Ceramics I donate their hand-crafted bowls to benefit Ripon Area Food Pantry’s mission of feeding the hungry and helping those in need.

Students, faculty and community members are invited to attend the event in the Dahm Heritage Room in the S.N. Pickard Commons on Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 5-7 p.m.

Representatives from the Ripon Area Food Pantry as well as folks from the Center for Social Responsibility will be breaking bread with visitors and engaging them in conversation about food insecurity in the Ripon community. The Center for Social Responsibility kindly asks for a $10 donation, as soup, bread, and refreshments will be provided by Sodexo.

Assistant Professor of Religion and Pieper Chair of Servant Leadership David William Scott is the lead organizer for the event.

“The students of Art 180 [Ceramics I] make two ceramic bowls that they donate to the Empty Bowls project,” says Scott. ”Then there’s a dinner on Nov. 18 where anyone can stop by, buy one of the bowls, get some soup and bread to eat in it, and take the bowls home to use as they see fit.”

The project allows ceramics students in Assistant Professor of Art Mollie Oblinger’s class to create their own bowl designs while they learn the fundamentals of hand-built pottery and experience service learning. Pottery making techniques such as pinch-pot, coil, and slab building are employed as the students execute their original bowl sketches and discuss, with Professor Scott and others from the Center for Social Responsibility, community food insecurity.

Partnering with the art class to sell the students’ bowls rather than a traditional benefit soup dinner is what makes the annual Empty Bowls event unique for the community. “One, it [Empty Bowls] allows the students of Art 180 to participate in some service learning and shows how the protection of art can not only reveal truth or beauty but also serve others in society,” explains Scott. “And secondly, on the fundraising side, I think the chance to buy one of these bowls, which are often really interesting, unique, and beautiful, is an extra incentive for folks to come and participate in the fundraiser. They make great Christmas presents.”

“The students have spent a lot of time hand-crafting fully functional, and even, microwave-safe bowls from their original designs to donate to the event,” adds Oblinger.