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Maercker D-60 teacher finds creative way to raise funds for arts program

For the past six years, an art teacher from Maercker School District 60 has organized and hosted a fundraiser benefitting Westview Hills Middle School’s arts program as well as various local organizations.

Dubbed the Empty Bowl fundraiser, the event began with an afternoon of pottery painting Saturday, when District 60 parents, students and families joined together and painted their own pieces of pottery.

Art teacher and fundraiser leader Josh Vance then takes the pieces, glazes them in his kiln and will present them back to participants at a formal dinner Dec. 7.

For this year’s Empty Bowl fundraiser, Vance chose the West Suburban Humane Society as a co-beneficiary. He said every year he tries to find a different charity to help out.

“This year, I just wanted to do something different and I thought it’d be cool to work with an animal shelter,” Vance said.

Students, parents and families who participate in the fundraiser Saturday paid $20 to craft their pottery pieces.

When Vance first started teaching at Westview Hills Middle School about nine years ago, he said the only thing missing was a community service event.

Now with the Empty Bowl each year, he said the main goal is to be diverse and hit different local causes and organizations.

During Saturday’s event, Vance said about $1,600 was raised. Last year’s event brought in about $1,300, he said.

The ceramics used for the fundraiser include bowls, plates, mugs and, new for this year, figurine dogs and cats. Vance said all the ceramics are premade, fired and baked, so after being painted, the pottery simply needs to be glazed.

“It’s a neat fundraiser because everyone is doing art together – it’s unique,” he said. 

With the painting portion of the event having passed, Vance said he’ll have plenty of time to finalize the ceramics before the dinner Dec. 7.

Each ceramic takes about six to seven hours to bake in the kiln, according to Vance, who said taking into consideration the time it takes to cool down the kiln, each batch is about a 24-hour process.

One mother in the district said her family has gone to the Empty Bowl Fundraiser each year.

“It’s a nice event to connect with the kids and the families,” Carrie Watkiss said. “And this time of year is about giving back to the community and someone less fortunate.”

People who weren’t able to attend round one are still invited for the dinner Dec. 7. He said for those solely attending the dinner, plates will be $5 per person.

The 2013 Empty Bowl Fundraiser dinner will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at Westview Hills Middle School, 630 65th St., in Willowbrook.

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