David Johnson, a local potter owner and operator of the Bear Hollow Pottery in Pineville, MO, is on the Board of Directors of the Village Art Club, Inc., aka Artisan Alliance of Wishing Springs. The club owns and operates the Wishing Springs Art Gallery in Bentonville, Arkansas. Artwork and handmade crafts produced by members are displayed and sold there. The VAC also sponsors the Bella Vista Arts & Crafts Festival held during October every year. However, this year’s has been canceled due to the virus. The festival can have as many as 150 exhibitor/vendors selling their handmade creations. No commercially purchased items are allowed, everything must be made by the exhibitor.
This past year, 2019, David got an idea on how to better use a separate building, located behind the art gallery. The building had been used by members as a meeting place and to hold a few art classes. One of David’s pottery friends was moving from Joplin, MO to Bella Vista and closing up her pottery studio in Joplin. He convinced the VAC to accept a generous offer, by his friend, Heather Grills. The offer was a donation of the equipment from her pottery studio. David’s idea was to turn that building into what is now called The Clay Studio, where handbuilt and wheel clay classes are taught. The Studio usage is only available to it’s students, of all ages. The Studio opened in May of 2019, and had become profitable, before the virus forced us to close temporarily.
In June of 2019, David, inspired by the Empty Bowls worldwide effort, convinced some of the other members to help in creating bowls to raise funds to help the food insecure in NW Arkansas. the Benton County Empty Bowls, 501(c)(3) charitable organization was formed. Formed by David Johnson, Heather Grills and myself, Phillip Calkins. With the help of VAC members, Clay Studio student/monitors roughly 8 people, we created and sold just under 500 bowls. we raised and passed on to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank $10,030.12. Not too bad for our first year.
Our success in 2019, made us want to double our efforts for 2020. We have a target of 1,000 bowls and raising more than $20,000 to fight hunger in NW Arkansas. Because of the virus, we have canceled the event for this year, but not our enthusiasm. Beyond our new this new website, we will also be selling some bowls through a couple of physical venues when they open, again due to the virus. This year, 2020, is definitely a challenge, which only means that our efforts and contributions are more greatly needed.
Benton County Empty Bowls is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Any and all donations are tax deductible. We are strictly a volunteer organization, no one draws a salary. Administrative expenses are covered through voluntary donations, not bowl sales. 100% of the gross profit from bowl sales are passed on to other organizations, such as the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
While our organization was formed in 2019, the original Empty Bowls was started in 1990 by a Michigan High School Art Teacher. He involved his students in making ceramic bowls which they then sold at an soup event.
The bowls were sold at the soup event and the purchaser received both the bowl and a bowl of soup. This served as a reminder that there are many "Empty Bowls" in the community that need help being filled.
The Empty Bowls concept took off, and has expanded into a worldwide effort. It is now made up of hundreds of local charitable organizations around the United States and other countries. The concept has been maintained, that the ceramic bowls are handcrafted by local potters, all labor is volunteer, all profits from the sales and event are redistributed in the respective local geographic areas to combat food insecurity and hunger.