March 23, 2021

Alli Ortega Empty Bowls event goes virtual

The arts do more than inspire creativity; the arts change lives. Over the past year, Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation has spent tireless hours shifting our programs to ensure we continue to meet the ever-growing needs of our community. The annual Alli Orgeta Empty Bowls represents how the arts rise above the challenges this past year presented—particularly with increased food and financial insecurity—by raising money and awareness of issues within our own community.  

Janet Blum (right) founded the Scottsdale branch of the Empty Bowls program nearly 30 years ago as a teacher at Coronado High School. Photo: Scottsdale Arts

The international Empty Bowls program was started in 1990 by one art teacher, and since that time, it has spawned a global, grassroots movement by artists and craftspeople in cities and towns around the world to care for and feed the hungry in their communities. That same year at Coronado High School, Scottsdale launched its Empty Bowls program, led by Janet Blum, the school’s visual arts teacher. Blum recognized that youth have an innate passion for philanthropy, which led to a natural transition to the school supporting their community. 

Alli Ortega’s heart and spirit live on through the Empty Bowls program, named in her honor. Photo: Ortega family

In 2014, the program was renamed to Alli Ortega Empty Bowls after a young, active, passionate artist, teacher, and mentor who gave her heart and soul into helping others to better their lives in Scottsdale. She was an integral part of teaching students about the impact the Empty Bowls program made in our community, and her dedication for her community bettered the lives of all she touched. While her life ended all too soon, Alli’s passion lives on through the program.  

Empty Bowls has a long tradition in the Scottsdale Schools, providing an opportunity for students to share their artistic talents to support our families in need.  Alli Ortega, a SUSD graduate, had a giving heart, providing an avenue for our future SUSD students to give from their hearts and create from their imagination.  

Michelle Irvin, Fine Arts & PE Coordinator, Scottsdale Unified School District

Students from Vista Verde Middle School not only create bowls that are sold at the annual event, but they also visit Scottsdale Community College as a part of the college and career readiness curriculum. Photo: Scottsdale Arts

Continuing to this day, and co-led by Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation, this signature program offers residencies and workshops in partnership with Scottsdale Unified School District, Paradise Valley Unified School District, city of Scottsdale senior centers, and Delta Kappa Gamma women educators. Through the making of ceramic bowls, participants learn art skills while also enjoying the social and emotional benefits of the arts. Through these teaching-artist-led workshops, participants also learn the art of giving back and being active citizens for the greater good. These bowls are not created for themselves but are given back and sold at events throughout the fall, where 100% of proceeds are given to Vista del Camino food bank.   

This year, you can be involved in this incredible event. Join us for 12 hours of giving on March 31, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Livestreamed on the Scottsdale Community Partners Facebook page, you will hear from various event partners, founders, sponsors, and community members involved in this event and hear stories of the Empty Bowls program’s impacts.  

Help us reach our fundraising goal of $10,000 so we can help Scottsdale families that have been impacted by COVID-19. Each donation will be entered to receive one of five handcrafted bowls by a local Arizona artist, each with a value of $100 or more. 

Even if you can’t attend the event, you can still donate to Empty Bowls. Let’s join together to provide comfort and kindness to our friends and neighbors during these difficult times.

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