21, No. 11, Dec. 6, 2001
Ceramics class makes bowls
for Empty Bowls fund-raising event
News Bureau Staff Writer
(217) 333-5491; firstname.lastname@example.org
by Bill Wiegand
| Art for non-profit
Art and design professor Ron Kovatch (left) observes James
Kearns, senior in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, as
he creates a ceramic bowl similar to those students created
for the Empty Bowls fund-raiser to take place in Bloomington
in January to benefit McLean County organizations fighting
hunger. "Artists are always asked to donate a piece to
benefit great causes and institutions," Kovatch said.
"Were really hit up a lot. So, this was a perfect
project to hit my advanced students with."
Round and round
and round it goes. When the wheel stops, all James Kearns knows is that
the two pounds of clay hes been working will ultimately take shape
as somebodys one-of-a-kind chili bowl.
Kearns, a senior majoring in ceramics, and classmates in Ron Kovatchs
advanced ceramics class actually threw, trimmed, glazed and fired somewhere
in the neighborhood of 150 such bowls this semester as part of an assignment
that emphasized both skill-building and community service.
The cream of the crop 50 bowls in all, some made by the students,
some by Kovatch have been wrapped and packed, and are awaiting
shipment to the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington, where they
will be sold and filled with chili at the centers "Empty
Bowls" fund-raiser on Jan. 18. Kovatch said the fund-raiser
the first of its kind for the Bloomington arts center is being
held to raise money for McLean County organizations that fight hunger.
The concept is not new, however. Similar events have been held throughout
the country for several years, with information and support provided
by the Imagine/Render Group, a national nonprofit organization that
describes itself as being "dedicated to positive and lasting social
change through the arts, education and projects that build community."
The bowls donated by Kovatch and his students will be combined with
similar vessels contributed by five Bloomington-area ceramics instructors
and their students.
The chili supper will take place at 6 p.m. in the McLean Arts Centers
Brandt Gallery, 601 N. East St., Bloomington. Admission is $15, which
includes chili, cornbread, beverages, dessert, and of course, a handmade,
ceramic chili bowl. Attendance will be limited to 200.
Tickets go on sale Dec. 14 at the opening reception for an exhibition
of ceramic bowls by professional artists, at the arts centers
Armstrong Gallery. Exhibiting artists include Kovatch and other instructors
contributing to the "Empty Bowls" fund-raiser, as well as
other area ceramic artists. That exhibition will be on view through
Kovatch said various parties had approached him in the past about becoming
involved in such fund-raisers, but the timing always had been off. This
time around, when the arts centers head curator, Alison Hatcher,
tossed the idea out to him after he exhibited a new body of work there
last December, Kovatch bit. "The seed had been planted before,"
he said, adding that Hatchers offer came with plenty of lead time
"I couldve made the bowls myself and been done with it,"
Kovatch said. "But I decided to make it a student project for two
reasons. One, its a great way to learn. Throwing pottery on a
wheel, you accumulate skills and confidence with practice. Its
a great assignment because bowls are one of the first throwing assignments."
Kovatch also thought the exercise would give his students a preview
of what they can expect to encounter once they become established artists
within a community.
"Artists are always asked to donate a piece to benefit great causes
and institutions. Were really hit up a lot. So, this was a perfect
project to hit my advanced students with."
All of them responded to the assignment "like troopers," Kovatch
said, even though they arent all what he calls "throwers,
or potters." Some of them focus exclusively on making hand-built,
sculptural works. Since the bowls had to meet a variety of functional
requirements, only the throwers could actually make the bowls.
"At first, the kids who didnt throw were worried they wouldnt
be participating," Kovatch said. "But in the end, it was very
communal." The non-throwers enthusiastically jumped in and volunteered
to do the grunt work mixing glazes and decorative slips, and
mixing and wedging large barrels of clay.
"Then the throwers just had to sit down, reach for a ball of clay
and go to work," Kovatch said. "Many of them threw 25 pots
to get 10 finished pieces. But having the clay ready to go allowed them
the ability to focus, to get into a rhythm and get some momentum.
"The students were jazzed," he said. "And we ended up
with 50 pots that are really striking."
Bowls chili supper
6 p.m. Jan. 18
Brandt Gallery of McLean County Arts Center
601 N. East St., Bloomington
Cost: $15; limit of 200 tickets available starting Dec. 14 at the opening
of the exhibition (see below). After Dec. 14, available by calling (309)
Opening reception: 5 to 7 p.m., Dec. 14 continues Dec. 15-Jan. 26: Tuesdays:
10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesdays-Fridays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays:
noon to 4 p.m.
Armstrong Gallery of McLean County Arts Center