Springfield, Ohio –
Thanks to a collaborative effort between Wittenberg University students, faculty and staff members and alumnae, 12 young people from the Springfield community gained a unique opportunity to learn ceramics. In the process, dozens of bowls were prepared for the 16th annual Wittenberg Empty Bowls event, which takes place from 4-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25, in the Center Dining Room of the Benham-Pence Student Center, 734 Woodlawn Ave.
Throughout the month of October 2009, the young people learned to throw bowls on potter’s wheels in Wittenberg’s Koch Hall through Project Jericho’s “Wheels of Change” program, a ceramics module. Project Jericho, a collaborative program of the Clark State Performing Arts Center and Job and Family Services of Clark County, provides positive, in-depth arts experiences to at-risk youth and families in the Springfield community.
Wittenberg Associate Professor of Art and Director of the Ann Miller Gallery Scott Dooley, coordinator of the university’s annual Empty Bowls event, worked closely with alumnae Sarah Leavens, class of 2006, and Eliza Waggoner, class of 2008, of Project Jericho to organize the project. They were joined by volunteers Lauren Luecke, class of 2010 from Mahtomedi, Minn.; Michael Chambers, class of 2011 from Tiffin, Ohio; Anna List, class of 2010 from Westerville, Ohio; Hillary Strimple, class of 2012 from Gaithersburg, Md.; and staff members Amy Henry, groundskeeper; Alisa Mizikar, reference librarian and assistant professor.
Leavens, community outreach and education specialist for Project Jericho, served as coordinator for the module. Both she and Waggoner took ceramics classes and helped with Empty Bowls as students.
According to Leavens, the idea for the module was first discussed a couple of years ago. Last August, Dooley felt the time was right after the most successful Wittenberg Empty Bowls event ever in April 2009.
“We started each session with reflective writing,” Leavens said. “As we discussed Empty Bowls as a project to feed the hungry, we made the correlation between feeding hunger and feeding other needs people have. We explained that we need to have centering in our lives the same as we need to center on the wheel.”
Participants in Project Jericho's "Wheels of Change" module work in Koch Hall in October 2009.
As the students learned to create bowls on the wheel, they learned to create “Wheels of Change” in their lives – “to create ceramic bowls to help feed the hungry and in the process have found what’s on the other side of the wheel: art that feeds the soul,” Leavens said.
“We talked about the good side and the bad side of the wheel, and that they could learn positive ways to express frustrations,” Leavens added. “They made lists of positive things in their lives that they could focus on to ‘feed’ them and discussed them as a group, discovering answers among themselves.”
Another goal of the module was to provide the students the experience of a college setting. “It’s so valuable to them to learn what it’s like to work in a college environment,” Leavens said.
An unexpected outcome of the experience for Luecke, who plans to pursue a career in art therapy after graduating from Wittenberg in May, was an internship opportunity with Project Jericho. She worked at Springfield’s Juvenile Detention Center, an appropriate educational experience for Luecke, who has been accepted into the Master of Science in Art Therapy program at Mount St. Mary College in Milwaukee, Wis.
On Nov. 5, “Wheels of Change” participants gave a presentation, which included readings of their poetry, at a reception in their honor in Koch Hall’s Thompson Gallery. The presentation was accompanied by an exhibition of their bowls. They have been invited to return to campus as volunteers at the Empty Bowls event.
Empty Bowls, a national fundraiser aimed at fighting hunger, was started in 1990 by a Michigan high school art teacher. A class project with the students producing ceramic bowls evolved, and people were invited to purchase them to benefit local food banks.
For $15 each, diners who attend Wittenberg’s annual Empty Bowls event select from a large variety of handcrafted bowls before joining a buffet line of bread, salad and soups for an evening of food, entertainment and fellowship. All of the proceeds go to the Second Harvest Food Bank to help feed the hungry in Springfield and Clark County.
Written By: Phyllis Eberts