USA Bowls to Benefit the Homeless


Posted on November 19, 2015 by Joy Washington
Joy Washington


Showing off some of the soup bowls created and donated by USA to benefit Art Soup are Eric Jager, visual arts major, and Alana Kruse, ceramics lab assistant. data-lightbox='featured'
Showing off some of the soup bowls created and donated by USA to benefit Art Soup are Eric Jager, fine arts major, and Alana Kruse, ceramics lab assistant.

The beautiful glazed bowls created by Eric Jager will help put food on the table for the hungry and provide shelter for the homeless. He’s not alone; the University of South Alabama has more than 40 students, faculty, staff and alumni from the ceramics and glass programs who have joined local artisans in creating more than 300 soup bowls to benefit a local non-profit.

Jager, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska, and a junior majoring in fine arts at USA, started creating ceramics while in high school, and he never dreamed at that time his passion would show compassion to those in need. He wanted to share his work, and with the support from Tony Wright, professor in the visual arts department, Jager is joining the USA family and the local community in creating beautiful art pieces for the Friday, Nov. 20, Art Soup fundraiser to benefit 15 Place and other agencies that provide services for the homeless in Mobile.

“I am proud my student, Eric, and my lab assistant and former student, Alana Kruse, have decided to create one-of-a-kind ceramic bowls to be donated,” Wright said. “It’s important my students get a real-world experience at South Alabama. I am here to guide them as they learn.”

Jager has grown as an aspiring artist based on the guidance he’s received from Wright, who’s also a professional potter, and other USA faculty.

“Eric is in his third semester working toward his major concentration in ceramics,” Wright explained. “He has taken on the challenge of creating objects that demonstrate good craftsmanship and design to not only help those in need, but to also represent the quality of our program’s instruction.”

Kruse is working with Wright to help and assist other creative students. She graduated from USA in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“I started donating my ceramic bowls several years ago, because of Professor Wright’s involvement in a local fundraiser for non-profit homeless agencies,” Kruse explained. “As an artist, my skill has improved. I have been doing this since I was 11 years old, and this year, I wanted to handcraft and design bowls for the upcoming benefit with unique patterns and designs that I free-hand.”

According to Wright, the USA visual arts department has been making bowls for Art Soup since its inception in 2002. In the past, each student or faculty member did individual bowls. But, this year they have teamed up to work together on creating many of the handmade bowls. Some students and faculty work on the shape and form, while others add creative design work. Different hands and tools have touched every aspect of each bowl’s creative process.  Kruse has been instrumental in providing the creative design for most of the bowls. She transferred to USA and has grown since she took her first intermediate ceramics course from Wright.

“Alana returned to my program this past spring with an intense focus to expand her skills, particularly as it pertains to the relationship of form and surface,” Wright noted. “She has an incredible facility with executing complex patterns and designs with the techniques of slip trailing and sgraffito. Many of the more distinctive bowls that will be donated this year are the result of her hand in embellishing not only her own creations, but in adding her special touch to the pieces created myself and by some of the other potters.”

Each year Art Soup is held several days before Thanksgiving. USA understands the importance of providing support to the community, as many students are volunteering through the USA Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement.

“The work that we are doing is a true service learning activity,” Wright said. “We are humbled to represent the University and support our community.”

Tickets for Art Soup are $50 per person. During the event, members of the public will pick their own bowl, and fill it with soup. USA students, faculty, staff and alumni will attend and be available to talk with supporters about the inspiration around the creation of the unique handmade bowls or any of the art donated for the silent auction. The public will take home the bowls as a keepsake and as a reminder that many people in our society go hungry every day.

As the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week continues through Nov. 22, Dr. Kathy Bydalek, assistant professor of nursing, and Shannon Shelly-Tremblay, project manager for the Center for Healthy Communities in the College of Medicine, support the access to services for the underserved population.

“As a USA family, it’s our commitment to work in service to the community by participating in hunger and homelessness related activities and programs throughout the year,” Bydalek said. “Students and their faculty mentors, including those from nursing, allied health professions, medicine, social work and pharmacy contribute at agencies such as 15 Place, McKemie Place, Healthcare for the Homeless in Mobile and the annual Project Homeless Connect.”

The bowls created by the USA family are meant to be a symbol to the community that hunger is real, and a stand must be taken against it. 

“There are so many ways we need people to serve,” Shelly-Tremblay said.  “The one-of-a-kind bowls created for the upcoming fundraiser will help secure the much-needed funds to support the homeless in our community.”

This will be a memorable experience for Jager. He gets to share unique and beautiful pieces of art, which will make a difference in the lives of others. As he thinks about his future, he wants to earn his master’s degree in fine arts and teach as a professor, just like Wright, his mentor.

“Professor Wright, Alana and other faculty in the art department are very supportive,” he said. “My time studying and creating at South Alabama has been a wonderful experience. And to share my creative talent to support the community has been life-changing.”


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