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Kansas City Previews National Ceramic Conference With Hundreds Of Empty Bowls

One man has been driving all over Kansas City for eight months transporting hundreds of fragile handmade bowls.


“I show up with newspaper and a mish-mash of boxes that I’ve grabbed. Right now, I’ve probably got four or five boxes [of bowls] and before the end of the day I will have a few more,” says ceramic artist LeRoy Grubbs.

Credit LeRoy Grubbs
LeRoy Grubbs collected hundreds of donated bowls around Kansas City for Empty Bowls KC, an arts charity event for food pantries.

On Friday, Grubbs’ ceramics-transportation taxi can rest outside the event he has organized, Empty Bowls KC, a fundraiser for local food pantries at ArtsTech in the Crossroads.

Area artists of all skill levels, from high school students to professional ceramicists, have donated upwards of 1,000 bowls for the fundraiser.


Grubbs made about 300 of the bowls himself. The KC Clay Guild in Waldo donated several hundred thrown bowls, hand-built bowls, porcelain, and stoneware, says board member Josh Wood.


"Most folks donating to Empty Bowls are passionate about ceramic art, and are creating whether for an event like this or for personal fulfillment," Wood says. "As a ceramic artist that mostly makes functional pieces, I like nothing more than to know someone is using my work on a daily basis."


The event comes at a time of rising excitement among the city's ceramic artists, who are gearing up for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), the world's largest ceramic conference.


Grubbs says Kansas City's ceramic artists always try to make a pilgrimage to the conference. No travel is necessary this year, because NCECA will be in Kansas City for the fourth time since the conference began more than half a century ago.


Empty Bowls KC is the inaugural Kansas City event for NCECA, with more already scheduled around the time of the conference. Most of the organizations participating in Empty Bowls KC, such as Brackers Good Earth Clays and RedStar Studios, are already preparing for NCECA as well.


At Empty Bowls KC, a donation buys admission, one of the bowls and a soup dinner. The suggested donation is $45, but Grubbs wants to extend the artists' generosity by keeping an open ticket price affordable to anyone.


“The objective is to give them away,” Grubbs says of the donated bowls.


Credit LeRoy Grubbs
LeRoy Grubbs puts final touches on his sculpture for auction at Empty Bowls KC.

After dinner, the event transitions to an auction of local art not limited to ceramics. Genevieve Casey donated nature photographs. Wes Casey contributed sculptures, and Laurie Dawn made jewelry to sell.


All general admission donations plus half of the auction’s funds will be donated to Harvesters and other local food charities. The remaining half of auctioned art money goes back to the artists.

Help End Hunger - Kansas City Empty Bowls, Friday, November 6, at 6 p.m. at Arts Tech, 1522 Holmes, Kansas City, Missouri, 64108. Tickets available at the door or in advance.

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