Pottery Projects, Hunger Awareness to be Focal Point of Chamber Banquet

PLAINVIEW – Any event requires advance planning and hard work, but this year’s Plainview Chamber of Commerce Banquet takes the cake. This time, the entire community has been in on the front work for the banquet instead of just the end result.

Featuring a theme of community service, the banquet is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the McClung Center dining hall on the campus of Wayland Baptist University. But unlike previous years, the planning for this year’s event started well before the usual time.

The theme was the major reason for the change. According to 2006 Chamber President, Dr. Claude Lusk, the idea of making the chamber banquet into a more service-oriented event came together after hearing about a project being undertaken by the Division of Fine Arts. An international effort aimed at promoting positive social change, Empty Bowls involves the creation of pottery bowls to bring awareness of hunger and relief efforts. When the project was mentioned to Lusk, he thought the two events could go together well.

“Part of who we are as a chamber should be supporting this type of activity, and I thought they might work together well. It will be a significant departure from what we normally do as a banquet, but I think it’ll be a positive event that will show our heart,” said Lusk, who is vice president for enrollment management at Wayland.

Back in October, Wayland solicited help from the community to create 600 bowls in the art studio, setting up two sessions weekly and others by appointment to accommodate up to 20 artists at one time. Groups ranging from Plainview High and Wayland students and staff to athletic teams, local churches and civic organizations participated, many completing two bowls during the session.

The art department at Wayland began to fill up, and Hilliard began racking up the hours as he supervised almost all the sessions and glazed every bowl himself for the project, with help from some art students.

“At one time, this whole room was covered with bowls on all these tables until we could get them fired and glazed,” noted Mark Hilliard, assistant professor of art at Wayland and a major organizer of the Empty Bowls project. “We lost count somewhere around 550, and we were shooting for 600, so I think we’re close.”

Hilliard said the group approach worked well, and he was pleased with the community’s support of the bowl-making sessions.

“The dynamics of each group were really different. Some groups were really enthusiastic and wanted to stay all night,” he laughed. “It was fabulously successful, and everything well very smoothly, especially for our first time doing this.

“Now we just need to get the people (to the banquet) to support it as well.”

Lusk agrees. Though the bowls portion went well, the support from the community to attend the banquet is key to the overall success.

“This year is essentially a departure from the normal chamber banquet,” Lusk said, noting that aside from the presentation of the Man and Woman of the Year awards, not much is the same. “For your ticket, you get a meal of stew and cornbread and salad, and you get to take home one of the bowls created. The bowls will be displayed throughout the cafeteria, so you have the chance to come in and eat and then shop. Music will be going on and folks can eat, visit, walk around and just fellowship.”

The visiting will halt around 7:15 p.m. for the presentation of the Man of the Year and Woman of the Year awards, and the 2006 awards mark the 50th year Plainview has recognized local citizens for their service and support. Afterward, banquet attendees can return to the fellowship mode.

The décor and entertainment will follow the theme as well, with musical entertainment provided by the Wayland Jazz Ensemble and various jazz combos, all directed by adjunct instrumental instructor Joe Vandiver.

“Jazz sets the mood for artistic contemplation, so it is well suited to this event,” noted Dr. Ann Stutes, co-chair of the Division of Fine Arts. She added that art students and faculty will have artwork on display at the banquet as well, creating a well-rounded arts experience with a service focus.

“Normally, businesses will ‘adopt’ a table and decorate them with giveaways and things from their business,” Lusk noted of the décor for the event. “This year, the businesses have adopted tables and are ‘pounding’ them with canned goods to be given to Faith in Sharing House and the Salvation Army. Some of the Wayland student organizations have also adopted tables to pound. Everything we’re doing is to help these organizations out.”

Lusk noted that the majority of the $15 ticket price will go directly to FISH and the Salvation Army, supporting those organizations that work for hunger relief. Students college age and younger will be granted admission to the banquet for a donation of five cans of food.

Tickets for the banquet are available through the Chamber Office at 710 West Fifth Street or at the door the evening of the banquet. Reservations are encouraged if possible. For more information, call the chamber at 296-4731.