By Kevin Kelley
The artistic creations that have come out of art teacher Amy Roman’s kiln the past several weeks are colorful and glistening. But they represent a harsh reality.
The Messiah Lutheran School teacher and her students created and decorated ceramic bowls for a dinner April 9 at the Dunson Community Room at Fairview Park City Hall, 20777 Lorain Road. But the dinner won’t be anything special, at least in culinary terms. Just soup and bread.
The church is sponsoring the dinner as a fundraiser for the Fairview Hunger Center, a food bank operated by several community churches.
Roman was asked by leaders at her church to develop a project to involve students at the school. She chose one first used in 1990 by Michigan art teacher John Hartom, who had his students create bowls for a fundraising meal. Those attending were asked to keep the bowls as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. Hartom’s project has since grown into an international anti-hunger program.
Roman said church leaders liked her idea, which she had wanted to pursue for some time.
“They liked it so much they bought me a kiln,” she said.
While the project was designed for students at Messiah Lutheran School, Roman invited several community groups to participate as well. Groups whose members created and designed bowls included the Fairview Park Junior Women’s Club, the St. Angela Merici School Art Club, local Scout groups and the youth group at Lutheran Memorial School in Cleveland, where Roman used to teach. The schools’ fourth-graders visited the city’s Senior center to show people there how to make bowls.
Roman also opened up the school’s art classroom on nine Sunday afternoons this winter to allow church members and people from the community to create bowls.
Messiah Lutheran students and the various groups created more than 600 bowls. In addition, students at Lutheran West High School in Rocky River made more than 300.
The multistep process begins with participants molding clay into the form of a bowl. After the clay is bisque fired for 12 hours, it is decorated with a special paint. A second burn in the kiln, which takes about seven hours, results in the final glazed product.
Some people found the molding the best part, Roman said, while others enjoyed painting their bowl the most.
The creation of the bowls, Roman noted, is an interactive process in which participants have to share equipment and help each other out.
The empty bowls project was different from other art classes in which students usually create something for themselves, Roman said. She made a point of telling her students to do a good job because the bowls will be kept by another person.
The April 9 dinner will not feature any speaker, Roman said, although representatives from the Fairview Hunger Center will be on hand to inform people how they can help out or volunteer. A slideshow of photos Roman took of people making the bowl will be shown during the dinner, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m. Interspersed with the photos will be slides with text displaying facts about the issue of hunger.
As for the dinner itself, it will consist of bread and soup.
“It’s a hungry person’s meal,” Roman said. “It’s meager. For some people, this is all that dinner is.”
Volunteers from Messiah Lutheran and Fairview Grace United Methodist Church have already made 30 gallons of soup, which they froze; more will be made April 9, Roman said. Giant Eagle is donating ingredients. Four varieties will be served – tomato tortilla, chicken and rice, stuffed cabbage and vegetable.
The soup will actually be served in a paper “to-go” bowl placed on top of the ceramic bowls, Roman said, because it’s hard to come by a dishwasher that can fit 900 bowls.
The dinner will take place at City Hall rather than Messiah Lutheran, Roman said, because the church wants it to be viewed as a community event, not one just for Messiah Lutheran parishioners.
Reservations are not required; however, a donation to the Fairview Park Hunger Center, which assists only Fairview residents, is required to obtain a bowl.
“The whole purpose is to raise awareness of hunger right here in our city,” Roman said.
Carol Napp, who has run the hunger center for 21 years, said the need has never been greater.
“Our number have increased about 25 percent in the last six months,” she told West Life.
The center, based at New Hope Church, served more than 200 people a month. One day this winter, the center provided food and other supplies to more than 50 persons, a record, Napp said.