USI students make bowls to fill bowls

James Vaughn

A young boy chanted for the crew to open the doors as the crowd saw bread-maker Alex Lattner through the window, jumping up and down and holding up seven fingers as a way to let them know how many minutes remained before the doors would open.

A crowd of 30 people lined Adams Ave. in the Haynie’s Corner Art District Saturday morning in anticipation to buy hand-crafted bowls, chow down on a variety of soups and benefit those struggling to fill their own bowls.

The crew worked together to get the crowd “pumped up” before the opening – a crowd that continued to grow.


Once the doors opened at 11 a.m., approximately 50 people entered Adams Art Gallery into a small room full of tables supporting more than 800 bowls.

Empty Bowls is a national non-profit. Each bowl, all of which were made in a Ceramics I class at USI or by high school students from the Evansville area, cost $10 with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Tri-State Food Bank and United Caring Shelters. Twilight Bistro provided the soup, with choices ranging from classic potato to pumpkin pie.

It was Assistant Professor of Ceramics Alisa Holen’s first time organizing the event at USI, but her third time in general. The event was funded by a $1,550 grant from the Indiana Campus Compact.

“I had the advantage of it being a service learning course this time, so we had a lot more student involvement,” Holen said. “This is a great turnout for the first time being here.”

She’s noticed that a lot of charities simply ask for money, but by doing this event, those who donate get a bowl and some soup in return, she said.

“I don’t make a lot of money, so I’ll never be able to donate $8,000 to my favorite charity,” Holen said. “But I’ve got these skills and I’ve got this studio and I’m pretty good at rallying volunteers. I get to introduce ceramics to some people who will probably never get the chance to be on a wheel, and in the end, we’ve made all of these beautiful bowls and get to give some money to a charity.”

Sophomore Alexis Dahl recently changed her major to art because of the project.

“I took the Ceramics I course thinking we’d be making coffee mugs or ashtrays, and we ended up doing so much more than that,” Dahl said. “We’re actually helping people through art, and that’s awesome.”

She volunteered to work during the event as well, along with 14 other USI students. Within an hour, close to 100 people had come out to the event.

“With the poverty line where it’s at right now, it’s nice to see this many people showing support,” Dahl said.

She participated in the dance marathon last year but said she liked doing Empty Bowls more because it benefits people at the local level.

“I know that there’s a lot of hungry people in Evansville, and you kind of get to see the impact that’s made,” Dahl said.

Alex Lattner baked all of the bread for the event. Holen approached her about it because the original Empty Bowl events offered bread with the soup, and she wanted to go back to that plan.

“I was excited to bake that much bread,” Lattner, who spent two days baking 102 French baguettes, said.

All of the bread was baked out of her home.

“The double-oven helped,” she joked.

City Councilman Jonathan Weaver attended the event. Gretchin Irons accompanied him, convincing him to buy three bowls. The “starving actress” loves the corner and visits the area often, she said.

“It’s always so funky down here. I love it,” Irons said. “This time, there’s a bonus because we get to help people, and that’s a great way to have fun.”

She said she was surprised by the turn-out.

“It makes me happy to see all of these people here,” Irons said.

USI alum Marcia Coomen was walking in the neighborhood when her girlfriend saw a sign for the event.

“I knew that it was a wonderful organization. I figured I could get some wonderful things, and it’s for a wonderful cause,” Coomen said.

She likes non-traditional things and has decided to start a collection of bowls now, she said. She left with a box filled with seven bowls. 

The event sold 694 bowls. $6,940 was donated to the charities.