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The Empty Bowls Event was a Smashing Success
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By Haydn Jensen

Think back a few weeks to March 1. Did you have soup for lunch or dinner that day? Did you have it in a beautiful new bowl created by the London Potters Guild? If you did, I'm sure you'll do the same again next year. Maybe I shouldn't say that Empty Bowls event was a smashing success, but it really was!

Hosted by the London Potters Guild with generous participation from a dozen participating London restaurants, the event aimed to raise hunger awareness and provide support for the Ark Aid Street Mission. Potters Guild wanted to give back to the community. Ark Aid, as a close neighbour, was an easy choice (both are on Dundas Street near Lyle/ Elizabeth St.). For a $25 contribution, people got to pick out their own unique hand-thrown bowl, fill it with some delicious soup to enjoy and then keep their bowl as a reminder that for many of our neighbours, bowls remain empty for a lot longer than they ought to.

Although a new event for London, pottery groups from many places around the U.S. have been running Empty Bowls since a Michigan art teacher first came up with the idea in 1990. Empty Bowls allows participating pottery groups to create and donate bowls, then serve a simple meal to foster community awareness of local hunger needs and influence changes in attitudes that allow hunger to exist. Judy Sparkes of the Potters Guild says she expects this to be an annual London event.

Not just a hunger awareness event and a terrific fund-raising opportunity for the Ark Aid Street Mission, Empty Bowls also showcased how art and art education play a vibrant role in health and well-being for everyone. Jeremy Jeresky and Kristina Courey from London's “The New School of Colour” were on hand with a silent auction of pieces created by their students. Described as “a creative social space”, the New School of Colour is a free art program open to all community members, with a special focus on providing opportunities to youth and adults dealing with issues of poverty, mental health and other social barriers. By offering a safe social space for creativity, New School provides support, builds confidence, friendships and a chance to create meaningful and beautiful artistic work. With its original home at the Ark Aid Street Mission, many clients at the Ark say that New School is the best program that the Ark provides. Offering classes for youth and adults now at 7 locations across town, people can come to learn and practice photography, claywork, painting and drawing.

Although the New School of Colour does offer a chance to work in clay and itself enjoys a very positive relationship with the London Potters Guild, the Guild itself also provides many opportunities for newcomers who specifically want to get their hands into clay. In their newly renovated building at 664 Dundas St., they offer lessons, retreats, birthday party packages, and a chance to learn alongside a growing number of professional international potters who rent space there. The Guild has appreciated excellent support from the Trillium Foundation, London Arts Council, and Ontario Arts Council and extend an open community invitation to welcome potters and clay artists at all stages of their creative journey — from beginners to professionals. To prepare for Open Bowls, they held 2 "Souper Bowl" Sundays where they pitched over 500 bowls. Sound like a great time? Absolutely!

Doug Whitelaw, Executive Director at the Ark, also welcomes and appreciates participation from community members. He tells me they have over 700 volunteers a month come to provide nightly meals—over 25,000 last year—to people looking for a positive social environment and a hot meal.

To get involved with the Ark Aid Street Mission, The London Potters Guild, or The New School of Colour, here are some links:

www.arkaidmission.com
www.londonpottersguild.org
www.londonpottersguild.org






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