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Traveling Bowls Give Students a Taste of Art

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Bella Jenkins helps prepare a meal in a bowl made by Richmond artist Carren Clarke-McAdoo. - PHOTO COURTESY SHARON RUSSELL
  • photo courtesy Sharon Russell
  • Bella Jenkins helps prepare a meal in a bowl made by Richmond artist Carren Clarke-McAdoo.

Students at Albert Hill Middle School have been taking home unusual library items for an even more unusual homework assignment: enjoying a family meal from a handmade piece of art.

Inspired by a project at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Ore., art teacher S

haron Russell commissioned local artists to craft bowls, which are rotated among the students.

The project, Bowls Around Town RVA, asks students to borrow the bowls, use them to serve a family meal and document the results by posting pictures on Tumblr at bowlsaroundtownrva.tumblr.com. Dishes have included butternut squash soup and breakfast for dinner. Oh, and a lot of pasta.

“My biggest intention was to have kids appreciate art beyond what’s in the museum,” Russell says. “I wanted our artists to be supported.”

Russell hopes to introduce Richmond families to the talent of the city’s potters. Those who made bowls for the students are Carren Clarke-McAdoo, Robin Cage and Leslie Messersmith, who have studios within 10 blocks of the Museum District school.

While the project originally was opened to students, it’s expanding to the community. Richmond Fire Department Station 18 used one of the bowls for a spaghetti dinner. Russell wanted to keep the project within the neighborhood, she says, but “if it ends up bigger, great.”

She plans an exhibit of the photographs collected of the meals at a December PTA meeting, where other works by the artists will be on sale.

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