ArtsBower School of Music & the ArtsCampus LifeCollege of Arts and SciencesCultureCurrent Issue

Empty Bowls celebrates the art of giving

Art Program’s annual pottery fundraiser unites community to help feed the hungry.

For 10 years, FGCU’s annual Empty Bowls Soup Lunch has helped make sure hungry people have food. And we’re not talking about the long line of faculty, staff and students who gather in the Arts Complex courtyard to pick out ceramic bowls crafted by art students and have them filled with chowder, chili or bisque.

Empty Bowls is a national campaign to address the needs of the hungry in local communities. Student potters make bowls, area restaurants donate soup to fill them, and hunger-assistance organizations provide education and outreach.

At FGCU’s event, proceeds raised through $15 donations go to Interfaith Charities of South Lee, which operates a food pantry and helps deliver prepared meals, offer food-stamp assistance and feed schoolchildren during summer break. In 2015, Interfaith Charities assisted 3,131 individuals in south Lee County.

“This is something important we can do for our community – it’s right in our backyard,” says Daisy Popoli, a junior health science major from Naples. She’s overseeing this December’s Empty Bowls event along with fellow intern Adrianna Arago, a senior art major from Naples, who chimes in, “It helps bring the community together.”

On several different levels, we might add. Students gather for a marathon of clay shaping, glazing and firing that yields about 1,000 bowls. The day of the event, Southwest Florida artists bring their own pottery to sell in the courtyard; a portion of the proceeds goes to the United Arts Council of Collier County to help purchase art supplies and contribute to funding for teachers in after-school art programs.

By late morning, folks stream in from all corners of campus for what’s turned into an FGCU family tradition (although the general public is welcome, too). They greet and catch up with each other as the line spills out of the courtyard.

“It has developed an interesting aura,” says longtime Empty Bowls organizer and Art Professor Patricia Fay. “People just like to be here. They stop and sit down and talk to each other while they eat their soup. It’s a really unusual, unexpected outcome.”


  • When: Friday, Dec. 2
  • What: 16th annual Pottery Sale from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with community partner United Arts Council of Collier County; 10th annual Empty Bowls Soup Lunch from 11:30 a.m. until the soup runs out.
  • Where: Arts Complex Courtyard