Mesa Community College Empty Bowls Event Features Local Artists

For 20 years, Mesa Community College has hosted the annual Empty Bowls event. In 1992, the Art Department presented the idea as a way to support a nationwide movement for feeding the needy and homeless.

Ceramics faculty, staff and students at MCC work all year long to create more than 2000 bowls. They are assisted by students at the Mesa Arts Center, local artisans and this year, Chandler Gilbert Community college is also making bowls. The Empty Bowl events are held at both the MCC Southern and Dobson and Red Mountain campuses.

Three artists have contributed close to 1000 bowls for the events this year. Brian S. Asdell, Wen Dan Lin and Alecia Zirigon are all former MCC students who proceeded to get Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees and are now working toward Masters Degrees.

Brian S. Asdell began taking ceramics classes at MCC to meet a 3D art requirement for his degree at ASU. He quickly knew he wanted to learn more about ceramics and completed one year of studies at MCC. He continued his education at ASU and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics. Brian is currently pursuing a Masters of Museum Studies degree at ASU. To keep his skills keen, he continues to take ceramics courses at MCC and is employed as a Studio Monitor.

Brian has been making bowls for four to eight hours each day and plans to work the event as well. “I believe in the Empty Bowls event. There are so many people who go hungry. I think it is great artists can help the community by doing their art work,” stated Brian.

Wen-Dan Lin grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. Much of his youth was spent moving from one area to another. He attended 14 different schools in total before coming to MCC. After taking a ceramics class, he was hooked. He transferred to the Kansas City Art Institute. He participated in the Study abroad program and traveled to Kecskemet, Hungary in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics. He returned to Tempe, AZ to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts degree at ASU.

Dan is currently completing a ceramic mural project at MCC and works as a Ceramics Studio Technician at the college. In 2009, 2011 and again this year, Dan has made over 300 bowls for the Empty Bowls event. He enjoys participating as an artist and the challenge of making each bowl to be unique. Dan said, “Clay is humble, obeying the laws of physics and the touch of its maker.”

Alecia Zirigon, ended up at MCC much the same way as Brian. While working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree at ASU, she needed a 3D studio art credit. She decided to give ceramics at MCC a try.  The collaborative atmosphere, level of encouragement and caring through MCC’s program was one she had not previously experienced. She returned to ASU, completed her bachelor’s degree and is now working toward the completion of a Masters of Education degree with a core focus on 3D art and secondary education.

Alecia has worked at MCC as a Lab Technician and Teacher’s Assistant in Ceramics since 2009. She has also been involved with the Empty Bowls event the last three years. Alecia commented, “The event is one of the most incredible collaborations; talents of artists paired with a charity. It not only holds personal significance to me but is a great resource for students and those in need.” She added, “The positive direction my life has taken is because of the support of Linda Speranza and the Art Department. It has been invaluable.”

Since the beginning of Empty Bowls, MCC has worked with Paz de Cristo Community Center in Mesa, AZ. All proceeds are donated directly to the nonprofit that provides anti-hunger and empowerment support for the East Valley's homeless, unemployed, working poor and their families. In 1992, the event brought in $2,400 and last year over $18,000 was donated to Paz de Cristo.

The public is invited to attend MCC’s Empty Bowl events. For a $10 donation they can chose a handmade bowl and receive a meal of soup, bread and water or lemonade.  Soups are donated by T.C. Eggington’s, Pita Jungle and Red, White & Brew.  Help “fight hunger one bowl at a time” by attending and picking out your own special bowl.

Wednesday, October 17 at MCC’s Southern and Dobson Campus

(Center courtyard under the big tent)

1833 W. Southern, Ave, Mesa

Hours: 10:30 am – 3 pm and evening 5-8 pm

Music by: Desert Gumbo

Wednesday, October 24 at MCC’s Red Mountain Campus

(Mesquite Building, Community Room)

7110 E. McKellips Rd.

Hours: 10:30 am – 3 pm and evening 5-8 pm

About Mesa Community College

Mesa Community College provides outstanding transfer and career and technical programs, workforce development, and life-long learning opportunities to residents of the East Valley area of Phoenix, Arizona. MCC excels in teaching, learning and empowering its more than 40,000 students to succeed in a local and global community.  Mesa Community College is one of ten colleges that comprise the Maricopa County Community College District.

Please direct media inquiries to Angela Askey at or Sally Mesarosh at  or the Office of Institutional Advancement at 480-461-7445.  IA website:

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Publication Date: 
Thursday, September 20, 2012