It is very rare in this day and age to find an enduring, sustaining and effective idea spanning a generation while generating millions of philanthropic dollars. Starting in a Detroit high school in 1990, Lisa Blackburn and John Hartom decided to teach their art students a lesson in compassion. They made empty clay bowls and sold them at a luncheon, with proceeds benefiting a local food bank. The bowl reminded people of all the wonderful things that they had in their lives and, more importantly, reminded them of their neighbors who regularly go without.
Since that day, the Empty Bowls Project has expanded into an institution. Ninety-one Feeding America food banks in 31 states host annual Empty Bowls events. The concept has even spread to 20 countries across the globe. In Asheville, for the last nine years, Empty Bowls events have generated more than $130,000 for MANNA FoodBank. Artists from this pottery mecca — Lori Theriault, John Hartom, Bob Weisburger, Nick Joerling, David Voorhees and many more — come together every year to create and donate their art for this very important cause.
Rarely does the marriage of art and philanthropy sustain itself so vibrantly and effectively. Thanks to Lisa Blackburn, John Hartom and the many thousands of artists creating empty bowls ready to be filled, millions more people will have a meal. Go to www.mannafoodbank.org to find out about the two upcoming events on Thursday, Oct. 14, and and Sunday, Oct. 17, that will commemorate this most momentous of anniversaries.
— Joshua Stack