Bowls of love: MS fundraiser provides homeless youth with food

A new annual tradition is emerging on the Middle School (MS) campus with the Empty Bowls fundraiser, an event MS Ceramics Teacher Sasha Bergmann introduced in the winter of 2017-18 and revisited at the end of 2018 by inviting MS students, parents, and faculty to the Big Room to purchase handmade bowls out of which they then shared a potluck meal provided by parents. 

Founded in 1990 by a Michigan high school art class hoping to raise money for a food drive, Empty Bowls began as a reminder that there are always people hungry in the world, according to The Clay Connection, a nationwide pottery organization. Since then, the concept has spread to ceramics communities throughout the world, Ms. Bergmann said.

“This year it was just a totally joyous event. It was really lovely,” Ms. Bergmann said. “We also had a lot more people come to the event than last year—I think more than double.”

In the weeks leading up to the event, MS students were invited to make and glaze as many bowls as they wished in a variety of styles during regular ceramics classes, during all-school free blocks, and with three after-school groups: the Community Service Club, Science Club, and Clay Club. Ms. Bergmann said that sometimes she would help complete different steps of the bowl-making process. For example, Ms. Bergmann would make bowls on the wheel for the 8th Grade Wheel class to practice trimming, and then others would decorate the bowls. 

Ms. Bergmann also said that this year, at events on November 14 and 28, six parents and seven faculty helped glaze bowls. 

A total of 75 bowls were made for the culminating event from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 6, and 68 were sold to about as many attendees. The remaining seven bowls are on display at the MS and for sale to any interested parents or teachers. 

This year’s fundraiser sold each bowl for $20 and raised $1500. Of this total, $1000 went to Y2Y, a shelter in Harvard Square that supports homeless youth, and $500 went to Heading Home, an organization to which MS students also donated winter clothing, Ms. Bergmann said. The Empty Bowls event last academic year, held on January 19, raised roughly $1000 for Y2Y. Ms. Bergmann said she chose Y2Y last year because the organization had come to present to the MS during their Community Time program, and the age it supports links closely enough with middle schoolers that it might encourage students to connect to the cause. 

Randall Henry ’23 said he enjoyed seeing MS artwork benefit the organizations.

“It’s a good cause, and my classmates made bowls, so it was pretty cool to see them here. I actually had a friend who made one, and I bought hers,” he said.

This year’s event also included individual musical performances, an idea Ms. Bergmann said she and Karen Fabbri P ’21, ’23—who helped organize and run the event—hatched. To that end, three weeks before the event, MS Music Teacher Chris Dwyer had invited musicians from the MS chamber group, jazz band, and chorus to participate, and four students rallied to perform on the sidelines of the event: Amphitrite Ma ’23  improvised on the harp, Sandro Benmayor ’23 sang James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go,” Xavier Ip ’23 played “Bach’s Prelude in D Minor” on cello, and Bradford Kimball ’24 played “Satin Doll” on the alto saxophone. Ms. Bergmann’s daughter Ryah Lichtenstein, who is a senior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, played the flute.

Natalie Gersen ’24 said she enjoyed listening to the performers.

“They were all super talented, and they really moved the audience,” Natalie said.

During the event, MS Librarian Beth Brooks called the evening a success for community-building.

“The turnout is great,” she said, adding, “lots of students, parents, and a few teachers!”

Head of School Dr. Jen Price, also present, agreed.

“I think tonight is an awesome evening of bringing together art, community, and food,” she said, “and it’s really wonderful for us to come together to have a meal and raise some money for two good causes.”

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