Eat Soup, End Hunger: 25 Years of Empty Bowls at Culinary Arts Museum

Empty Bowls exhibit at the Culinary Arts Museum
On view until August 1 at the Culinary Arts Museum: an exhibit documenting 25 years of Empty Bowl’s grassroots activism.

Empty Bowls began in 1990 as a grassroots effort to raise funds and awareness in the fight against hunger and food insecurity. A new exhibit at JWU’s Culinary Arts Museum (on display until August 1) pays tribute to this global organization that has benefited (and fed) millions of people around the world.

The exhibit mixes one-of-a-kind, exquisitely crafted bowls with ephemera (posters; invitations) and photos from Empty Bowls events spanning its 25-year history.

No two Empty Bowls events are the same: Individuals, institutions and communities are free to improvise within the broad framework established by the umbrella organization:

  • Serve a meal
  • Use handcrafted bowls
  • Donate funds to an organization combating food insecurity
  • Send guests home with their bowls as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world

The many posters on display are just as unique, whether hand-drawn and rough or professionally designed and printed.

One especially effective poster depicts two hands — one open, one gripping a large spoon — along with the slogan, “Eat soup, end hunger.”


Likewise, the bowls run the gamut from abstract or painterly to more message-driven. One takes the form of two conjoined, open hands. Many are beautifully laquered or painted with abstract patterns. On one bowl, the words “Empty Bowl Project” emerge from a cross-hatched black-and-white pattern.

The exhibit design and branding was a collaborative effort between 3 students from JWU’s School of Engineering & Design, Courtney Blair, Amanda Hengst and Ray Nuñez.

“Amanda, Courtney, and Ray are fantastic graphic designers and they created a great visual piece,” Stephen Spencer, the museum’s operations manager, told the JWU Campus Herald. “Students, staff and faculty should visit the museum to see their work.”

“Empty Bowls: Working Together, Everyone Eats” is a beautiful reminder of what can be accomplished when we come together for a common goal. “When you feed an individual, you assist a family,” reads a quote from Gurvinder Singh, an event organizer. “When you assist a family, you assist a community.”

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Earthenware bowls on display / Wall of Empty Bowls posters / Open Hands bowl + poster for 20th annual Empty Bowls event at Wittenberg University (where it all began)

Earthenware Bowls at the Empty Bowls exhibit, 2015

Wall of Empty Bowls posters at the Culinary Arts Museum

Open Hands bowl + poster for Empty Bowls 20th anniversary event.