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Art department continues support for Valley Food Bank's Empty Bowls event
Posted: 09/14/2007
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The University of Texas-Pan American's Department of Art not only "threw" bowls Sept. 8 at its third annual Throw-a-Thon but also a lot of support toward fighting hunger in the Rio Grande Valley.

Held in the University's Fine Arts Annex ceramics studio, the event involved art department faculty, undergraduate and graduate fine arts and other students, "celebrity artists" from the media and members of the community - from youngsters to retirees - in creating or decorating the bowls. Once glazed and fully-completed, the bowls will be given to attendees of the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley Inc.'s premier fundraiser - an Empty Bowls luncheon and auction - to be held Thursday, Oct. 18 at the Pharr International Convention Center.

UTPA graduate student in fine arts Ramiro Paz, who teaches art at Veteran's Middle School in Donna, is pictured at a wheel alongside the many bowls he created during the Sept. 8 Throw-a-Thon at the University.
"This event mixes fun with a good purpose. It is a great chance to step up and get involved," said Chris Leonard, ceramic artist and lecturer in the UTPA Department of Art, who helped organize the event in collaboration with the Food Bank-RGV.

Empty Bowls originated nationally in 1991 as a project to fight hunger. The Food Bank-RGV's Empty Bowls event promotes local artists and their work while raising funds for their programs to fight hunger in the Valley. For a $25 ticket, diners at the luncheon, held 11 a.m.-2 p.m., will be able to choose one of hundreds of bowls of all sizes, shapes and colors made not only at the UTPA Throw-a-Thon but by other volunteer participants of all ages and skill level throughout the year. The most ornate bowls and other donated art and items will be offered in a silent auction at the event. Area restaurants and chefs help supply and prepare the meal of bread, soup, salad or dessert.

"The Throw-A-Thon at UTPA was a very positive experience. The community response was great. It brought together Chris Leonard's very talented students, the community, artists and our media friends," said Alicia Nevárez-Warner, communications manager, Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, Inc.

Paul Alvarez (right), a UTPA sophomore majoring in art, got some assistance from Chris Leonard, ceramic artist and lecturer in the UTPA Department of Art, in throwing his bowl for the Food Bank-RGV Empty Bowls fundraiser.
The Food Bank-RGV, a nonprofit organization, is the fourth largest food bank in terms of distribution in the state of Texas serving the counties of Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy. At the end of fiscal year 2006, it had distributed more than 19.5 million pounds of non-perishable and frozen products and fresh produce and served more than 200 agencies. In addition to the basic service of feeding the hungry through its member agencies, the Food Bank-RGV also operates many other programs that benefit the needy such as School Tools, which provides necessary school supplies to students and teachers from eligible schools, and a Commodity Supplemental Food Program that supplements the diets of pregnant, breastfeeding women, new mothers and children with U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity foods.

Sitting at a potter's wheel at the Throw-a-Thon, UTPA alumnus and current fine arts graduate student Ramiro Paz said he had donated bowls for the event previously after seeing an article about it in the newspaper.

"I have a talent and wanted to donate my time," said Paz, who teaches art at Veteran's Middle School in Donna. Paz said he could also relate to the needs of hungry Valley residents on a personal level. "I come from Mexico. We were very poor. I know what it is to be without food at least for one day," he said.

"Celebrity" artist Davis Rankin, vice president/director of Public Affairs with BMP Valley Radio and KURV 710 talk show host, said he was happy to help the Food Bank after he meticulously decorated a bowl.

"I know the people who work there and they do good work. The Food Bank is the court of last resort for a lot of people in South Texas and I think the Empty Bowls fundraiser is a great idea," he said.

To view a video highlighting the Throw-a-Thon at UTPA, go to http://foodbankrgv.com/FBRGV%20Frontpge%20Web/Flash/WebSzTAT.mov. For more information or to buy tickets to Empty Bowls, call 956/682-8102.