College of Lake County Empty Bowls helps feed hungry
Inge Turner of Hawthorn Woods holds a stack of bowls at the College of Lake County's Empty Bowls fundraiser. Mary Ann Lea (left) of Lake Bluff shops alongside. | Thomas Delany Jr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 13, 2013 9:40AM
Shirley Christian of Grayslake confessed to a bit of intemperance with her purchase of four hand-crafted vessels during College of Lake County’s annual Empty Bowls fundraiser on Tuesday.
“It’s so hard to choose,” Christian said. “Bowls are my weakness.”
But Christian and other pottery lovers could shop without guilt at the fifth annual event, which is part art show, part fundraiser, part chili takeout. Her donation of $60 — at $15 per unique bowl — translates into a meal a day for nearly a year for some hungry person. That’s according to Kristen Davis of Lake Villa, an AmeriCorps worker who specializes in community engagement for the Northern Illinois Food Bank, where $1 can buy enough food for six meals.
The fundraiser is modeled after the Empty Bowls Project, a nationwide effort by potters to end hunger. And at College of Lake County it’s a grand collaboration between faculty and student members of the Community Clay Association and the Hospitality and Culinary Management Program. For each bowl purchased, a takeout container of chili, beef or vegetarian, plus cornbread is offered.
More than 1,000 bowls were crafted by novice to veteran ceramic artists for this year’s event.
“After 1,000, I lose count,”said college ceramics instructor and co-organizer Ben Bates.
The event, which raised $7,000 last year, is both a great way to buy quality, functional artwork and to give, Bates said.
“That’s our goal,” he said. “To help people who need it.”
Bates glanced at bowls of all colors and designs, on display in the atrium of the college’s Grayslake campus.
“The quality over the years has steadily improved,” Bates said. “I see a lot more decision-making going on.”
Rakesh Rustagi of Gurnee, who has studied ceramics at College of Lake County for about four years, made 20 bowls for the project, most of them circular, very symmetrical, and that sit on “special feet.” The feet are really a rimmed-base, giving Rustagi’s creations a solid footing and a little more pomp than the average bowl.
“I saw that on vases in Italy, actually at the Vatican,” Rustagi said. “I thought ‘Nice feet. I should do that with the bowls.’”
Rustagi is retired from teaching math at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, but just took up his career up again part-time for College of Lake County. He said he took an interest in pottery after his daughter brought pieces home that she had made at a class at the college where he now teaches.
“I never knew what clay was or how it worked,” said Rustagi, who noted that a ceramicist strives to make pieces that are uniform and light.
“The students go way above and beyond because it’s such a great cause,” Bates said. “And the bowls are a great bargain.”
• For details on the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which benefits from the 2013 Empty Bowls fundraiser, visit http://www.northernilfoodbank.org.