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UMPI Art Program hosts Empty Bowls fundraiser

The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Art Program is taking a turn at the pottery wheel to help fight hunger on a local scale. The program, with the assistance of students and local ceramicists, will create and sell unique handmade bowls—with funds raised going to a local soup kitchen—as part of the region’s fourth Empty Bowls fundraiser, taking place on Thursday, April 27, from 6-8 p.m. in the Sargent Family Community Center (Presque Isle Recreation Center).

Organized by UMPI Assistant Professor of Art Hyrum Benson’s Ceramics I, II and III classes, this unique event gives participants the opportunity to purchase the unique bowls and enjoy cups of homemade soup, all to benefit the local Martha and Mary’s Soup Kitchen. Community members are invited to attend this special event; doors will open and bowls will officially go on sale at 6 p.m.

Empty Bowls is the only fundraiser of its kind for Northern Maine, and participants are helping to feed a multitude of people with every bowl purchased. Last year’s event featured close to 150 handmade bowls and raised more than $1,400.

“I am excited to be part of this special event and am grateful for the generous support of students and colleagues and local businesses,” Benson said. “I think it is wonderful that my students recognize the need in the County and are willing to help by donating some of their amazing handmade bowls.”

Hand-crafted bowls will be made and donated by a wide range of individuals, from artists in the County to UMPI students and alumni to Presque Isle High School students. Bowls will start at $15. With each purchased bowl, participants will receive a cup of soup donated by local businesses and community members. Both the hand-crafted bowls and soup will be set up in the Rec Center on April 27, so community members are encouraged to stop by, pick out a beautiful bowl, and enjoy a cup of soup for a good cause. In addition, organizers hope to have a featured speaker or two talk briefly about poverty issues in the region.

Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was originally created by The Imagine Render Group, according to the organization’s website. The basic premise is simple: Potters and other craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity.

“Last year, we made more bowls and had a better turnout, and expect the same this year. I am very excited to be part of this event again and be part of this positive movement,” Benson said. “We hope that our Empty Bowls event will again be a great success and have a positive impact on the lives of individuals here in northern Maine.”

All proceeds from this event will benefit Martha and Mary’s Soup Kitchen, located on 21 Parsons Rd. in Presque Isle. The soup kitchen is usually open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-5 p.m. While open, they serve about 100 meals per day.

For more information about this event, contact Benson at 207.768.9441, hyrum.benson@maine.edu, or view the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EMPTYBOWLSAROOSTOOKCOUNTY.