The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Stew serves stew to help people in need this holiday season



Local artists have pre-made ceramic bowl to be sold at the Stew’s Empty Bowls fundraiser on Friday, Nov. 22. All proceeds will benefit MICA. Photo by Hannah Agpoon.

By Hannah Agpoon

As the holiday season swiftly approaches, the glistening streets of downtown Grinnell have set up lights and trees at every corner. On Friday Nov. 22, the Jingle Bell Holiday festivities mark the commencement of this joyous time of year.

The Empty Bowls fundraiser being held at the Stew next Friday is just one of the many events going on that night, but it is bound to be one of the coziest. Visitors will pay for a homemade bowl of their choice and a cup of soup to eat along with it. The ceramic bowls are all different shapes and sizes and will have been made prior to the event by local artists. 

With similar events happening all over the United States, the Empty Bowls raises money for Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) food pantries. In Grinnell, the event has been held for the past three years, and hopefully will continue on into the unforeseeable future. Cecilia Knight and Jane Mertens, the two primary organizers for the event, are excited by the event’s continued success. 

Mertens was inspired to start hosting an Empty Bowls event in Grinnell after seeing her college put on a similar one with their own ceramics studio. “When I came back here, I was like, ‘This would be really cool, I feel like Grinnell needs this,’ and then it grew over time as we got more members in the studio, and it has just been fantastic.”

“[The event] started out when our ceramics program was pretty small, and it was really just Cecilia and I,” said Mertens. “We made about $2000-$3000 each year. We made 150 bowls that year, and now we will be making about 300-350 [bowls] this year,” said Knight.  

“We have 25 people in the studio, and everyone has been participating in some way,” said Knight. “They either make bowls or glaze them, or they make soup or bread.”

“We don’t require it from open studio members, but all of them have been interested in being involved in this event. It’s really fun, and everybody wants to make something, right?” said Mertens.

The warm sense of community within the studio is perfectly exemplified as artists prepare for this fundraiser. While they have a wide range of experience with ceramics, everyone seems excited to choose rich colors to glaze their bowls with or to add little intricate details to their bowls in order to make them shine. The artists take care in each piece, wanting to provide quality items to the customers who visit. 

“There’s a lot of different styles [of bowls],” said Knight. “Some are thrown, some are handmade. They can be regifted or kept for yourself. There is really something for everybody.”

The same can be said for the delicious meal that is paired with the purchase of a bowl. The twelve different varieties of homemade soup, along with the homemade bread that comes along with it, offer vegan and gluten-free options so that all attendees of the event can enjoy a delicious meal. Compostable bowls and cutlery are provided in case visitors do not want to dirty their beautiful new bowl upon purchase.

The Empty Bowls fundraising event will be held on Friday, Nov. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Stew. Bowls are $20 each (soup included), and all funds go directly to MICA. 

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