Scottsdale art students contribute clay creations to annual event

Art classes at Mohave Middle School and Coronado High School have been working feverishly the past few weeks to create clay bowls for the annual Alli Ortega Empty Bowls fundraiser that took place at Scottsdale Community College on Nov. 29.

Locally, Empty Bowls raises money, through Scottsdale Community Partners, for Vista del Camino, a city of Scottsdale social services program.

Former Scottsdale Unified School District fine arts academic coach Janet Blum and a neighbor who then worked at SCC were instrumental in founding the local Empty Bowls event in the 1990s, according to a press release.

Ms. Blum says her Coronado Art Club students wanted to find a way to give back to the community, and chose Vista del Camino.

“We raised about $700 the first year, but over time, as this event evolved and gathered more support, it has grown into this great community undertaking that has probably donated about $100,000 to Vista del Camino over the years,” Ms. Blum said in a prepared statement.

Ms. Blum retired at the end of the last school year, but says one thing she can’t give up is her involvement with Empty Bowls. She’s been back in the classroom in recent weeks at Coronado and Mohave, conducting workshops for art students on the different ways of making a ceramic bowl and explaining how the bowls’ sale supports city residents in need, the press release stated.

Mohave art teacher Jordan Ray says a community outreach project such as Empty Bowls is a good undertaking for middle school students.

“It’s not something they think about, so to make art for a reason other than ‘just because’ or ‘because I like it’ and to make it for a specific purpose – and that purpose is giving – it’s really interesting to see their brains change as a result,” Ms. Ray said in a prepared statement.

Cara McGraw is in her first year of teaching art at Coronado. She welcomed Ms. Blum into her classroom, and she, too, says students have gotten a lot out of the project, personally and artistically.

“I was a little hesitant, being a new teacher and taking it on, but with her help and her coming in, it’s been a good surprise,” Ms. McGraw said in a prepared statement.

Nicolas Robinson, a junior in McGraw’s Studio Art I class, agrees.

“It feels good to do something not just for fun,” Mr. Robinson said in a prepared statement. “It has a purpose, and this will actually help someone.”

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