Bowls change to cups in tenth year of ceramics fundraiser

Sean Oates

This January, one of Malvern’s most notable events is coming back with a new look.

Since December 2008, thousands of student-made pots have filled the Duffy Center gallery for the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser. However, the event will be taking on a new form when it returns this January.

For the past nine years, Empty Bowls has been a popular event involving a dinner where student-made ceramic bowls and other items were auctioned or sold to raise money for charity. This year a similar event is being planned with some changes.

The biggest change is that the work for the event is done primarily by the students in the Art and Advocacy class. This is the first year the class has been offered in Malvern’s curriculum, and the first semester of the class is devoted to this event.

One factor in the design of this new class was the lack of student availability for Empty Bowls. Due to students’ increasingly busy schedules they had less time to contribute towards the event.

“It’s not that they didn’t want to, but I found that each year it was more and more of a fight to get student leaders to commit… and I didn’t want to fight the students,” Art and Advocacy teacher Ms. Kate Plows said.

Plows said that in the spring of last year she was uncertain if she would continue Empty Bowls. This was until former Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot held a meeting with her where they brainstormed ways to keep Empty Bowls alive, and it was here that the idea of the Arts and Advocacy class was developed.

Along with spending time making cups in class and during weekend open studios, the class is responsible for planning and organizing all other aspects of the event. Students are learning about logistics, fundraising, and how to work as a team.

“Our Art and Advocacy class is spearheading the event this year,” seniors John McGlinn and Ben Mankowski said. “We basically run all of the meetings, we meet with all of the people that are involved, all the faculty, the development team, and arrange the logistics of the event.”

According to Plows, there is much more to the event than making the pieces. “It is definitely not just making cups,” Plows said.


The five-student class is made up of seniors John Connors, John McGlinn, Ben Mankowski, and David Wiener, as well as sophomore John Giordano. In the second semester, the class will be responsible for another project that has not yet been decided. However, the two requirements are that it involves ceramics and has a social justice mission.       

The other, more notable change is the name of the event itself. It is now called Cups for Caritas, and according to the crew organizing the event, it was due for some change.

“It’s been Empty Bowls for the past nine years, and families who come annually have a bunch of bowls in their house. This year we wanted to change it up, ” senior David Wiener said.


Those attending the event have plenty of bowls to choose from. Last year, there were over one thousand bowls made, many costing as little as five dollars. However, as families bought more and more bowls, the idea of cups was a refreshing change.

“We have some families who have been coming to Empty Bowls for nine years, and they have so many bowls at their home that they could probably host their own Empty Bowls event,” Plows said.

The other difference from past years is that the event will be in the morning rather than the evening. Empty Bowls the last couple of years had been held in the O’Neill gymnasium, where a soup dinner was served.  Cups for Caritas will run a bit differently.

“It’s a morning mass, and then everyone goes to Stewart for a brunch style meal with juice, pancakes, donuts, coffee, and fruit—just like a small communal brunch instead of dinner,” Wiener said.

However, two things have not changed about the event. One is the organization receiving money. Bethesda Project is a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia that helps the homeless, and they receive all of the proceeds.

The other unchanging aspect is the principal idea that drives the event.

“I really wanted to be teaching students that when you develop a talent, you develop a responsibility to use that talent in the service of others,” Plows said.

And for all of the Eagles fans worried about missing a potential playoff game, the Cups for Caritas team assures there will be no conflict between the two.

“We would love for you to come out to the event on January 14. 9 a.m. is the mass, 10:30 is brunch,” McGlinn said. “If the Eagles play, you can come right before the Eagles game. It will be a really fun time. There will be lots of pancakes.”