Marshall University’s and The Pottery Place’s month-long virtual Empty Bowls sale raised $9,705 for the Facing Hunger Foodbank.
The Marshall University School of Art and Design teamed up with The Pottery Place to sell bowls online as an alternative to the Empty Bowls fundraising event, which was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jessica Stone, owner of The Pottery Place, said the total bowls sold online numbered 651. The proceeds of each $15 bowl represent 112.5 meals served by the food bank. Stone is a 2004 graduate of Marshall University and was part of the group of ceramics students who launched Empty Bowls 17 years ago. She worked with Frederick Bartolovic, professor of ceramics at Marshall and coordinator of the event, to create an alternative to the soup-lunch fundraiser that last year raised a record-breaking $17,995.
"Facing Hunger Food Bank has confronted many challenges during this COVID19 pandemic, and one of the bigger ones has been fundraising related to our two main events — one being Empty Bowls," said Cyndi Kirkhart, executive director of the Facing Hunger Foodbank. "The appeal of this event has centered around the selection of bowls created by the students as well as the opportunity for everyone to participate in the social gathering to share a simple lunch and reflect on the impact of hunger in the communities we serve. With the restrictions on gatherings, we did not think we had an option to offer this event in any form.
"But thanks to really creative thinking from Frederick Bartolovic of Marshall University and support from Jessica and Deacon Stone through The Pottery Place, the event transformed to a model that could be held in spite of not being able to hold the event in its regular format. It has been a great success, and the funds raised will provide an additional 74,737.5 meals at a time they are needed most."
As far as Marshall students were concerned, the experience was certainly different from most years, Bartolovic said, as most of the students had to leave campus weeks before the event.
"Although some students did get to finish their bowls for the event, many students donated their unfinished bowls to the ceramics studio to be finished at a later date," he said. "We scrounged together as many bowls as we could this year from various places, including current students and some back-stock donations from the Huntington Museum of Art as well as other smaller donations from area potters and regional schools."
"One benefit of the event this year is that students did get to see how effective it can be to market and sell work through an online sales platform," Bartolovic continued. "The Pottery Place did all the heavy lifting with getting all the bowls posted onto their website, but this year’s event couldn’t have worked out better. Because the Pottery Place had a drive-up service, patrons were able to get their bowls hand delivered to them in their vehicles so as to abide by safety regulations put in place for the pandemic."
Even though the final sales may not have rivaled years past, this year’s Empty Bowls was a success in providing meals to the region, he said.
"Thanks to all the people who came out to support the cause under the circumstances," he said.