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Empty Bowls a sellout for Meals on Wheels

Carol Hetzler, executive director, Albany Area Arts Council, left, and Izzie Sadler, development director, SOWEGA Council on Aging, hold center pieces created by the artists providing bowls. While the center pieces were available for purchase, unique ceramic bowls were provided as a part of the $20 ticket price of the event.

Carol Hetzler, executive director, Albany Area Arts Council, left, and Izzie Sadler, development director, SOWEGA Council on Aging, hold center pieces created by the artists providing bowls. While the center pieces were available for purchase, unique ceramic bowls were provided as a part of the $20 ticket price of the event.

ALBANY -- The SOWEGA Council on Aging partnered with The Albany Area Arts Council Monday to present the first annual Empty Bowls event, said Carol Hetzler.

Carol Hetzler, executive director of the Arts Council, said the purpose of the event, which was held at the Albany Civic Center, was to raise money for The Council on Aging's Meals on Wheels program and also for the Arts Council.

Tickets for the event were pre-sold for $20 each and included the attendee's choice of soup donated by a variety of local restaurants. While the soup itself was served in Styrofoam containers, ticketholders were given their choice of a hand-made ceramic bowl, uniquely created by a handful of area artists contributing to the event.

Kay Hind, executive director of SOWEGA Council on Aging, said that although Empty Bowls is a nationwide program, it's new to the area and the decision was made to "start small" with only about 200 bowls produced. The event was sold out well before its date with many requests for tickets turned away, according to Hinds.

"We are so excited about the response we've received from the community. It was obviously a great success and we plan to repeat the event next year -- with more bowls," Hind said. "The idea in linking bowls with hunger is that when the bowl comes down from the cupboard it's a reminder that someone's bowl is always empty. You helped feed someone this time and you can do it again." Hind said.

While the original Empty Bowls began in Michigan as a high school art project in 1990, the local project was suggested by Hetzler, who was an attendee at a similar event in her former home of New Bern, N.C.

"I talked to Jim Bisbee, a potter in North Carolina involved with Empty Bowls, and he told me they were doing 800 bowls that year and we could do at least 500. I think they had about 70 potters making the bowls, though. Now that we know the community supports it, next year we'll do more."

Sadler said area artists Anita Riggle, Connie Gibson, Kira Kosenski, Suzann Hagins, Kirby Gregory and Scott Marini were involved in creating the unique bowls.

"We were sold out within a day and a half of the Herald article," Sadler said, "and we're thrilled at the support we received from the community. We could have done 600 bowls this year and I'm sure we'll do at least that many next year."

According to Sadler, the two agencies were at a disadvantage this year because of the number of artists actually participating, and the limited lead time for the event.

"Next time we'll start earlier," Sadler said, "and we'll explore some other sources for bowls."