Potters to bring their wares to the sold-out Empty Bowl Project event

Arts / Article

Three years have gone by while the organizers of the Empty Bowl Project took a well-deserved hiatus. They are back, and with a bang, for the traditional soup-and-bread fundraiser that will be held in the atrium of the Akron Art Museum is already sold out. As fundraising events go, that’s great news.

The Empty Bowl Project centers on potters Michael Martell and wife Claudia Zeber-Martell. In an interview with Michael Martell and co-chair of the event Rich Hoselton, the two talked about the history and purpose of the project, as well as the upcoming event.

Michael Martell and Claudia Zeber-Martell. Photo courtesy of Zeber-Martell Studio

Their fundraising event benefits the locally-based Good Samaritan Hunger Center, which manages through donations to fill 4,000 some grocery bags per year to feed residents in need. Zeber-Martell Studio is in the process of creating, in a six week period, slightly more than 200 handmade, 12-ounce bowls (with each bowl individually stamped with the logo of the event). The bowls were sold through pledges made online for $30. Those who purchased them are invited to the upcoming soup-and-salad meal, where they will get the opportunity to look at all the newly-fashioned bowls and pick one out.

Guests selecting bowls at the Empty Bowl Project 2010. Photo courtesy of Zeber-Martell Studio

Guests selecting bowls at the Empty Bowl Project 2010. Photo courtesy of Zeber-Martell Studio

Zeber-Martell is donating all the bowls. That’s the studio’s contribution. Hoselton took to the streets and found restaurants willing to donate soup. The restaurants participating this year are: Bricco and Diamond Deli (both downtown Akron places that were part of the very first event in 2009); the Stew Pot Kitchen (also downtown but new to the event this year); Flemings and Mustard Seed (from the Montrose area); Moe’s Restaurant (in Cuyahoga Falls); and One Eleven Bistro (from Medina), as well as two caterers (Innovative Elegance from Ravenna and Dine-in-Diva from Akron), along with businesses that are donating bread (Breadsmith and Summit Croissants) and water (Earth Fare). Individual tables will be set up for each of the contributors.

The Akron Art Museum, a Knight Arts grantee, is not only providing the venue but is offering contributing guests free access to the collections and exhibitions that are on view in its galleries.

Akron-based singer/songwriter Zach will be on hand to bring music to the event, which will be held for the invited guests on Sunday, March 22 from 12-2:30 p.m. The Akron Art Museum is otherwise open, so visitors that day will get a close-up view of the fundraising event.

At the event (which has raised $6,000 for the Hunger Center through the pledges), raffle tickets will also be sold for chances to win handmade table ornaments and a large center bowl created for the event, Martell said. All the funds go directly to the Hunger Center.

To help offset out-of-pocket expenses for the committee chairs, Martell has created bracelets that will be on sale at Zeber-Martell Studio beginning next week. The bracelets, which will have “Empty Bowl Project” etched on them, cost $15. Martell said he and Hoselton need only sell 50 of them to recover costs.

According to Martell, the Empty Bowl Project answers the question of what purpose the potter’s craft can serve in the community. As he puts it, “The act of coming together in a central location, participating in the communal activity of sitting down together, eating and sharing the experience with a desire to do good by helping alleviate hunger becomes an uplifting experience for all of the individuals involved.”

When the first event was held in 2009, Martell said, it took six weeks for the organizers to sell out the 200 bowls. This year it only took four days. Martell and Hoselton joked that they didn’t even have the postcards that they would distribute to promote the event in hand before the bowls were already spoken for. That’s pretty amazing, and a good showing of how the project is regarded by the larger community.

If someone wants to get in on the event next year, they will need to do so quickly right after the start of the New Year by going to the Good Samaritan Hunger Center web site and making a pledge.

The Empty Bowl Project 2015 will be held from 12-2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 22 in the atrium of the Akron Art Museum, One South High St., Akron; 330-253-3808; www.zeber-martell.com. Event is sold out.