The Empty Bowl Project has provided a way to use art to address the issue of hunger in our community. The fundraising event, launched by Zeber-Martell Clay Studio and Art Gallery, brings people of different backgrounds to the Akron Art Museum to sample soup, take in some art and donate to the Good Samaritan Hunger Center.
“It’s what potters do; it’s true to our nature,” says Michael Martell, who, along with wife Claudia Zeber-Martell, owns the namesake gallery in the Northside District near downtown. “It really keeps us grounded and reminds us of why we chose to be functional potters, plus it gives craft a purpose in the community.”
The couple has been hard at work creating 220 hand-crafted and hand-decorated bowls, which will be sold to residents March 22 at the Akron Art Museum, who will also sample soups from local restaurants and make a donation to fight hunger. The bowls are emblazoned with messages of hope and each is unique in its own way. And bowls are as symbolic as they are practical, as it is a reminder of all the empty bowls in the community.
Although the fundraiser is already sold out, residents may still help the cause in other ways. For example, at the March 7 Akron Artwalk, residents may buy bracelets to help offset the cost of creating more than 200 original pieces of original artwork.
Residents also may donate directly to the Good Samaritan Hunger Center.
The Empty Bowl event usually sells out, but Martell says he prefers the intimacy of smaller gatherings rather than making the program bigger every year. And although the project, which was launched in 2009, took a few-year hiatus, co-chair Rich Hoselton has been critical to getting the project back on its feet and into the Akron Art Museum.
Along with entertainment by local singer-songwriter and community organizer Zach, the event will include signature soups from such area restaurants as Bricco, Diamond Deli, Dine-in Diva, Eleven Bistro, Flemings, Innovative Elegance, Moe’s, Mustard Seed, Stew Pot Kitchen, Breadsmith and Summit Croissant.
As Zeber-Martell’s roots grow deeper in Akron, Martell says he and his wife have become closer to social causes. “We’re traveling less now, and we’re more invested in the community.” he says.
The business is a true “mom and pop shop,” as Michael still makes the pottery by hand and Claudia handles the glaze, paint and finishing touches.