Art instructor leads Artists Against Hunger initiative planned for Jan. 22

An event planned for Jan. 22 at Memorial Auditorium in Pittsburg will use the creations of an award-winning ceramic artist who now teaches at Pittsburg State University, as well as the works of her students and other local artists, to benefit local youth and families.  

Called “Artists Against Hunger,” the project is directed by instructional art professor Mayumi Kiefer. Sometimes known by the name “Empty Bowls,” it has been done in communities across the U.S. as a way to benefit food pantries and those who need them.  

It was while working at a public school in Ohio that Kiefer noticed how hunger among students made it hard for them to focus. She learned that that time, one in four children in the U.S. ate one meal or less, on average, per day. And she knew she wanted to be part of a solution.  

In 2010, Kiefer started Artists Against Hunger in western Ohio, and took it with her when she became an instructor at a college in Idaho. She is continuing her efforts at Pittsburg State.  

Last fall, she invited artists, current students, and alumni to the Porter Hall Ceramics Studio at Pittsburg State to craft dozens of bowls from lumps of clay in a bowl-throwing party. “Throwing” refers to a method of forming vessels on a potter’s wheel. The bowls are then dried and put into a kiln. Then, a glaze is applied, the bowl is again put in the kiln, and it’s “fired.” No two bowls are the same.  

In November and December, the finished bowls went on display in Memorial Auditorium’s Beverly Corcoran Gallery. In the weeks leading up to Jan. 22, community members can drop by Memorial Auditorium, 503 N. Pine, to pick out a favorite and reserve it, with a suggested donation of $15 to $25 per bowl. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 22, the bowls will be sold and will include meal coupons from participating local restaurants. 

All of the proceeds will benefit local food banks.  

“It sounds like it’s helping other people, but it’s helping me, too — it’s giving me a good feeling,” Kiefer said. “The object is not to create a great work of art. It is to represent that we want to provide for people. At the same time, it will feed us as artists. It will feed our souls because we are creating.”