St. Mary’s art students create ‘Empty Bowls’ to help fill plates of people in need
Buy an empty bowl and help fill someone's plate with food.
That's the message being spread by students at St. Mary's High School in south St. Louis, where the sculpture class is creating ceramic bowls to raise money for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis.
"This is a wonderful way to combine art and help charity," said St. Mary's art teacher Melissa Griffin. "The students here are doing a wonderful job of working with clay. They're doing this in part for a grade, but it's much bigger than that."
Griffin brought the idea with her from Nashville, Tenn., where three Catholic high schools brainstormed about the Empty Bowls Project, an international effort to fight hunger. Potters and others create handcrafted bowls and invite people to a simple meal of soup and bread for a cash donation, to be given to charities that fight hunger. The donor keeps the bowl as a reminder of "all the empty bowls in the world," according to the project's website, emptybowls.net .
"My school didn't have a kiln or glazer, so we just made clay bowls by hand and the other school glazed and fired them and used them for charity," Griffin said.
When she started teaching at St. Mary's last year, the archdiocesan school for boys didn't have the equipment either, so Griffin wrote a grant application. St. Mary's was awarded a Maritz Arts and Education Fund Grant for Teachers to purchase clay, pottery wheels and other supplies.
The bowls being created by Griffin's sculpture class are going to be sold for $5 each, with the money going to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis. It's the latest in a yearlong partnership between St. Mary's High School and the Society, which includes donating the proceeds of "More Than a Message," a poetry book written by 14 St. Mary's students who called themselves the Southside Dragons.
St. Mary's students will be selling the bowls from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 24, at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop, 4928 Christy Blvd. in south St. Louis.
"We're also planning on selling them at school," said Griffin, and "at the art show May 6, after the baccalaureate service for seniors ... The art show will run all day and be open to the public."
There are 15 students in the sculpture class, who have so far made about 10 bowls each, Griffin said. "The goal is 18 bowls a student. They can keep a few if they want and sell the rest."
If 15 students sell an average of 15 bowls each at $5 per bowl — it sounds like one of those dreaded math word problems — it adds up to more than $1,100 for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
"St. Mary's has done a terrific job of stepping up and doing more than you would expect high school students to do," said Robert C. Vogel, director of development and partnership programs at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis. "The Southside Dragons who wrote the book — they approached us. The school has been pursuing this relationship with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Many organizations, including us, have benefited from high school service projects, but St. Mary's has taken things to a new level."
Griffin's sculpture class includes sophomore Sam Aguayo, who commented, "I really like making things with clay and being on the pottery wheel. It is not hard to do, it is fun, and it is for a good cause."
Griffin hopes to involve her other art classes in the project, as well as her graphic design students. She said the original plan was to hold a soup supper before a St .Mary's basketball game, "but we decided to start small and work toward that. Hopefully next year we will make that happen."
For more information about the Empty Bowls Project, call St. Mary's High School at (314) 481-8400.
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