UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Some experiences in life are both humbling and inspiring.
Such was the case last week when UW-River Falls art Professor Michael Helke and students from our ceramics program helped about 15 community members “throw bowls” (which, if you didn’t know, refers to the act of shaping pottery from a ball of clay using a pottery wheel) in the Kleinpell Fine Arts ceramics studio. Despite the insightful and patient mentorship provided by the art students, I can tell you there was a lot of clay flying off the wheels and more than a few bowls (including mine) that stretched anyone’s definition of art. That was the humbling part.
The inspiring part was that all of this was in preparation for this year’s Bowls for Hope community event. Now in its tenth year, the premise of this annual event which draws over 300 people is simple: in exchange for a modest entrance fee, guests not only enjoy delicious soups donated by local restaurants, they also are able to select a bowl made by a local artist to take home with them. Proceeds benefit a different charitable organization from the St. Croix Valley each year.
While the idea is simple, making it happen is anything but simple. The success of the event relies on the work and generosity of so many people. Artists, young and old, from across the region make and donate hundreds of bowls in many different forms – pottery of course, but also wood, fiber and glass. About a dozen local restaurants serve soups which are judged by the attendees, resulting in local chefs bringing out their best recipes to vie for the People’s Choice Award ladle. The event planning committee not only manages countless logistic details, but also handles the selection of just one from amongst many deserving charities nominated each year. Our Art Department and several others on campus also contribute in a variety of ways to make this event a success.
Over the past decade, Bowls for Hope has raised over $52,000 for local nonprofits, including the River Falls Community Food Pantry, Our Neighbor’s Place, the Free Clinic of Pierce and St. Croix Counties, BRIDGE for Community Life and the Grow to Share community garden, among others. Bowls for Hope has clearly impacted hundreds of lives, and this year that inspiring legacy will continue. Proceeds from this year’s event, set for Tuesday, March 5, from 5-7 p.m. in the Riverview Ballroom in the University Center, will benefit the River Falls Sunshine Club, a nonprofit organization created and led by compassionate River Falls High School students to help local families and students in times of crisis.
I hope you have the humbling experience of “throwing a bowl” at some point, and I invite you to be inspired by seeing what is possible when art, giving, and community come together at this year’s Bowls for Hope event.