Every Bowl Feeds a Soul

Filling Empty Bowls with Love in Toms River

Artists, students, and volunteers help bring in a bountiful harvest for Toms River this year.

The afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 30 brings a fun opportunity for people in Toms River to share in the harvest bounty.

On Saturday, Sept. 30, the JBJ Soul Kitchen will be hosting an Empty Bowls Pottery Sale event at their site, at The B.E.A.T. Center 1769 Hooper Ave. The event is a joint effort by the Soul Kitchen, the Teen Arts Festival, and The Art Alliance of Monmouth County. For a $20 donation, participants may select a bowl from hundreds of handmade bowls, each made by a student, artist, or volunteer. The proceeds go to further the work of the Soul Kitchen to provide healthy, delicious food to all members of the community, and to the work of the Art Alliance, a member-supported organization.

“We are thrilled that Empty Bowls is coming to the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Toms River, and so thankful to Mil Wexler,” says Carol Trub of the Soul Kitchen.  “Our support staff volunteers helped Mil guide high school students to create the bowls last spring, and we will now see the project come full circle.  It is a true community effort. Each bowl is more beautiful than the next, and all for a great cause.”

Initiated by Mil Wexler-Kobrinski, an artist with the Art Alliance of Monmouth County, the Empty Bowls Event has proven popular and successful over the past few years at the Soul Kitchen in Red Bank. The year-round effort to make the bowls requires many hands. Students at Teen Arts workshops each spring are among the most prolific contributors.

NJ State Teen Arts Coordinator Harrison Haney brought Mil to the State Teen Arts Festival at Ocean County College this spring. Her workshops proved so popular that some students spent the whole day making bowls.

Haney, who made a bowl or two himself, says, “It’s a great workshop, a hands-on opportunity for students to learn bowl making. Mil makes sure the kids know this bowl is going to be in someone’s hands and it’s going to a good cause.”

The three-day state Teen Arts Festival held each spring showcases the talents of teens selected as outstanding at each county Teen Arts Festival, and provides all students and teachers who attend the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, festivities, and networking events.

Gina Navon of the Art Alliance coordinates the volunteers in the project. She says, “Empty Bowls is a project of community helping community. We come together from the Art Alliance, from Soul Kitchen, from Monmouth Arts, we invite our friends to join us, we bring our daughters, sons, significant others. We have fun, but we work hard–especially Mil, who is the driving force here–and in the process we are all humbled by our good fortune, and present this reminder to the world that there are still many among us who struggle for this simple basic human need: food.”

Mil Wexler-Kobrinski, the initiator of the project in our area, is a ceramic artist and painter, and a board member of the Art Alliance. Her MFA thesis project focused on Empty Bowls, a project of Imagine/RENDER, a 501(c) 3 organization that fosters an international grassroots effort to raise both money and awareness in the fight to end hunger. The mission is to create positive and lasting change through the arts, education, and projects that build community.

Soul Kitchen was founded by Dorothea and Jon Bon Jovi. The JBJ Soul Kitchen, a program of the JBJ Soul Foundation, is a community restaurant featuring fresh, healthy ingredients. Soul Kitchen serves meals to in-need customers through volunteer work and to paying customers through donation.

The Art Alliance of Monmouth County is a non-profit, member-owned and operated gallery and studio in Red Bank, whose mission is to promote the advancement of the visual arts and provide exhibition, studio and classroom space.

Monmouth Arts is the official county arts agency of Monmouth County whose mission is to enrich the community by inspiring and fostering the arts. The annual Monmouth Teen Arts Festival invites all teens ages 13-19 in the county to experience professional critiques in their artistic disciplines, fun and interactive workshops (including the most popular workshop, Empty Bowls with Mil), peer performances, and exhibitions.

For more information about the Art Alliance, please visit: artallianceofmonmouth.org ; for Soul Kitchen visit: www.jbjsoulkitchen.org; for Monmouth Arts Festival:  www.monmoutharts.org ; for NJ State Teen Arts: www.njteenarts.org .