Empty Bowls Project returning to Paducah Convention Center this weekend
The annual Empty Bowls Project fundraiser – which benefits the Community Kitchen, a nonprofit that aids people dealing with food insecurity in Paducah and McCracken County – returns to the Paducah Convention Center this weekend.
While this grassroots volunteer endeavor is supported in communities across America, it first came to Paducah in 2008 by way of Michael Terra, owner of Terra Cottage Ceramics, who wanted to replicate what he had seen elsewhere when he moved to the city with his wife.
“This is all about starving children in the communities where we actually live,” Terra said. “We have succeeded to the degree that, when the culinary museum at Johnson and Laryls in Road Island did a 25-year retrospective of the Empty Bowls project, Paducah was actually one of the featured communities. Over the years, within the scope of that world, Paducah has made an outstanding impact as a town of unparalleled generosity.”
This year’s iteration will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27. Ticket sales will begin at 11 a.m. CST. The doors will open 30 minutes later, and the event will continue until 2 p.m. CST.
After donating at least $18 at the door, attendees of the event can choose from more than a thousand ceramic bowls handcrafted by 53 local artists into which they can subsequently scoop an assortment of foods prepared by 20 local restaurants.
Further cash donations will allow attendees to vote in the “People’s Choice Award” for best restaurant, the winner of which will lay claim to a commemorative cup for a year. All proceeds will benefit Community Kitchen.
Terra has consistently been able to recruit artists for the Empty Bowls Project thanks largely to the connections he has formed through his own work in poetry and sculpting. An ongoing partnership with the Paducah School of Art & Design has also enabled the general public to create bowls within its ceramics department.
“For most people, it’s the first time they’ve ever touched clay, so we guide them through that experience,” Terra said. “And hopefully, they get intrigued and they want to explore more with the art school.”
Pine Cone Gallery, Studio 2 Ceramics and Clay Alley Studio are among the arts groups who have donated bowls to the cause. Participating restaurants include Cheddar’s, Panera Bread, Papa John’s Pizza, Subway, Five Guys, Gold Rush Café & Catering, The Catering Company, Branch Out, Burger Theory, Café de Fae, 3100 at Broadway, Etcetera Coffeehouse and others.
“At the end of the day, you get a handmade bowl, you get a fabulous meal, and you get to know that you are contributing to the welfare of some of the most vulnerable, fragile neighbors in our community,” Terra said.