Empty Bowls in Willimantic

By Delia Berlin

According to emptybowls.com, “Empty Bowls is a grassroots movement by artists and crafts people in cities and towns around the world to raise money for food-related charities to care for and feed the hungry in their communities. Empty Bowls supports food-related charitable organizations around the world, and has raised millions of dollars to help end hunger.”

Willimantic’s first Empty Bowls event will be held at the Windham Senior Center on Wednesday, April 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. Guests will be able to purchase locally made ceramic bowls, priced between $5 and $20, and use them to enjoy unlimited soup and bread donated by local restaurants. There will also be raffles and a silent auction. At the end of the event, 100% of the proceeds will go to benefit the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

But there is much more than fundraising to an Empty Bowls project. The first such event in Willimantic is the brainchild of Daniela de Sousa, owner of Spiral Arts. This ceramics studio and gallery offers classes, workshops, membership, and locally hand-crafted ceramics. In addition to operating Spiral Arts and being a prolific artist, Daniela is also the kiln master, main teacher, and mentor at the studio. 

If I could use only one word to describe Daniela, “synergetic” would work best. In everything she does, she applies her whole person, interconnecting her creativity, interests, resources, and skills to improve outcomes, maximize opportunities, and build community. 

Take, for example, the many hundreds of bowls that Daniela has set out to make for this event. She started planning production a year ahead. To fund the supplies to make the bowls, the studio held fundraising sales last summer, during 3rd Thursday Street Fests. By that time, Daniela had also started collaborating with local restaurants and other organizations to secure a venue and all the resources needed to hold a successful event.

Soon, local potters started converging on the studio, hand-building and throwing bowls of all sizes and styles. After their first firing, many bowls were taken to Windham High School and Eastern Connecticut State University for glazing, becoming welcome teaching materials for local students, who also benefited from the opportunity to contribute to the project. 

At the time of this writing, there is still a growing list of participating restaurants and organizations ready to make Willimantic Empty Bowls a resounding success. All that is clear is that on April 24, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at the Windham Senior Center, there will be ceramic bowls for every taste, to be filled with delicious soups and bread provided by local eateries. Please join in celebration of all that is good in Willimantic.

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