Charles had just finished preparing the pottery wheel in his Edison High School art room so he could start making a bowl when his teacher, Krista Marino, told him to clean up. Class was over.

The 10th-grader had made a salsa bowl by shaping the lumpy, bronze-colored clay into a smooth, squat dish. Now, he wanted to make a soup bowl that would be sold and eaten out of at an upcoming fundraiser addressing hunger.

“But I’ll be helping the community!” Charles pleaded. That was reason enough for him to take another crack at the wheel — and be late for his next class.

Charles may have lost that battle, but he still managed to contribute to the upcoming fundraiser, Empty Bowls NE. The combination dinner and art fair is in its fourth year in northeast Minneapolis, and organizers hope to raise $10,000 for area food pantries by selling handcrafted pottery filled with restaurant-made soups.

Each of the 500 or so bowls for sale has been made by a local artist — including Marino’s artists-in-training at Edison. Some of her students sculpted their own bowls on the wheels, while others pinched and prodded clay disks into rough, four-sided vessels. And at one recent class, many of them dipped already hardened dishes into bronze and black glaze, getting them ready to be kiln-fired into two-toned, functional works of art.

“It’s a good thing, helping other communities,” said Robert, another 10th-grader, as he dipped a gray dish into spackled buckets of glaze. “It’s a good way to give back.” (The school asked that we use first names only for students.)

Many of the students will volunteer at the event, April 30 at the Solar Arts Building, in the heart of Northeast’s arts district. The exposure for these students to local artists and to the community at large is all part of the ceramics lesson plan.

“We’re teaching community service, and examining how you can use art to help others, more than skill-building,” Marino said.

Empty Bowls events are grass-roots fundraisers centered in their communities around the world. Minneapolis’ Powderhorn neighborhood, which has held such an event for more than a decade, served as inspiration to the Northeast organizers.

Proceeds go to local food pantries and to a program that sends schoolchildren home each weekend with backpacks full of nourishment.

It’s especially poignant that Edison’s students are involved, because many of them may have experienced hunger themselves. Almost nine in 10 students at the school get free or reduced-price lunches.

Empty Bowls is all about their community, and the students say they are proud to help, even though they admit it would be strange to see people eating from crafts they made with their own hands.

Said Jazanna, another sophomore, “It’s a little unbelievable.”

Empty Bowls NE
What: A fundraiser addressing hunger. Unlimited soup donated by northeast Minneapolis restaurants, including Chowgirls Killer Catering, the Draft Horse and Red Stag Supperclub. Participants take home the handcrafted bowl they eat from.
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. April 30.
Where: Solar Arts Building, 711 15th Av. NE., Mpls.
Cost: Pay what you can. Suggested donation $20 per bowl.