HIGHTSTOWN: Arts commission to use ‘artwork to end hunger’ with Empty Bowls program

These are some of the approximately 200 bowls that Adam Welch

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These are some of the approximately 200 bowls that Adam Welch

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HIGHTSOWN – The Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission is teaming up with local eateries to explore the Empty Bowls program and use “artwork to end hunger.”
“The Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission has been exploring numerous ways to connect with our community, and this project was something that both I and Adam Welch had considered independently,” said Ann Marie Miller, chair of the Cultural Arts Commission, in an email on Feb. 5. “Our minds came together at the December Cultural Arts Commission meeting.”
Empty Bowls is an international program that engages participating artists to create and donate handmade bowls in which a simple meal is served to a gathering of community members. In exchange for the meal and the hand-made bowl, guests contribute a donation.
To that end, the commission is teaming up with local restaurants 12 Farms, Tavern on the Lake, Fernando’s Grille and Panera Bread for an Empty Bowls” event from 6 to 8 p.m. March 12 at the Veterans of Foreign War Post 5700, 140 Dutch Neck Road in Hightstown.
Ms. Miller said that a variety of hot soups and breads will be offered and the VFW has donated beverages and space.
“We have received donations from Bryne Cafe Deli, Fernando’s who is providing a wild mushroom bisque; Mannino’s, which is providing pasta fagioli; Panera, which is donating bread; and Tavern on the Lake, which will also be supplying a soup,” said Adam Welch, a member of the Hightstown Cultural Arts Commission in an email on Monday. “Additionally, the VFW has graciously donated the space and some beverages.”
“12 Farms will donate a butternut squash purée,” said co-owner Rennie DiLorenzo.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Rise. Executive Director Leslie Koppel said that Rise is excited about the new partnership with local artists and their community.
“We are planning to use the proceeds from the Empty Bowls to purchase fresh produce for distribution at the Rise Food Pantry,” she said. “We appreciate the generous support of individuals and groups from our community.”
She said that Rise would be unable to provide the level of support needed without the local assistance of volunteers and donors. The Rise Food Pantry is open three mornings a week and two evenings each month. Donations can also be dropped off at the Greater Goods store on Rogers Avenue form 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Mr. Welch said that the idea came to him after being inspired by his wife and daughters Rachel, Amelie and Finely, who together sponsored a couple of children for Rise Holiday Gift Party 2015.
“We were taken by surprise that there were 800-plus children registered for this program,” he said. “As a family, we began discussing ways that we might be able to contribute something more.”
He said that Empty Bowls came to mind, having been a ceramicist for more than 20 years.
“When Ann Marie Miller brought up the idea of Empty Bowls independent of my own discussions with my family, it proved both serendipitous and urgent,” he said.
Ms. Miller said that Mr. Welch was willing and excited to create all the bowls within a short period of time.
“I made the 200 bowls for this event over a few weeks,” Mr. Welch said. “The bowls are high temperature, white stoneware made on the potters wheel.”
He said he made, glazed and fired them at the studios of Greenwich House Pottery in New York City where he serves as director, and at Princeton University where he is a lecturer.
“Many Empty Bowls projects take place in late fall around Thanksgiving, but while we were still in the winter months, this project seemed like a great way to help Rise and let our town know that the arts connect to other parts of our lives and can make a real difference in our community,” Ms. Miller said.
She said that their goal is to help their local food pantry because they know it is always in demand.
“We people to understand that the Cultural Arts Commission cares about the quality of life in our town,” she said.
Ms. Miller said that the Cultural Arts Commissioners will be volunteering at the event and anyone interested in volunteering can contact her.
“I’m excited that this came together so quickly and the response so far has been very positive from folks in the community who have never attended an event like this,” she said. “I’m hoping we have a big turnout, that everyone enjoys the food, and goes home with a beautiful remembrance of a great event that made a difference in our town.”
Mr. Welch said it is a natural step for the commission to bring art into people’s lives and to help the community at the same time.
“I think our pitch says it all, “Empty Bowls, Where Art Works to End Hunger,’” he said.
Tickets for the Empty Bowls event are $35 and include the full meal and the bowl that will hold the hot soup. Tickets are available online, at Rise and also available at the door unless they sell out of all 200 bowls.
To purchase tickets online, visit www.eventbrite.com.