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Dishing up art

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A year ago local paper artist Vicki Bolen decided to try an experiment – recruit the public to help her make enough ceramic dishware to raise money for charity.

Twelve months, 100 people and more than 600 bowls and plates later, Bolen has what she hopes are the makings of a successful fundraiser. There are blue ones, black ones, red ones, yellow ones, multi-colored and many other color dishes and they will all be for sale early next month.

Bolen came up with her idea early last year and put out the call for participants. She held the first bowl-making session in March 2017. The sessions were held in Bolen’s Little Bird de Papel studio, a small, pale blue, rectangular building with an iron screen door along Mountain Road not far from Rio Grande Boulevard.

The Soup Is Love Project will culminate March 2-4 with the sale of the kitchenware made by the community. Bolen said anyone who spends $20 or more will get a bowl of soup. The event will take place at Bolen’s studio from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with Kosmos Restaurant providing the soup.

The money raised will be donated to OFFCenter Community Arts Project, an organization that provides an open studio for anyone in the community to come and create art.

Community members helped local paper artist Vicki Bolen make more than 600 ceramic plates and bowls. The kitchenware will be sold and the money donated to OFFCenter Community Arts Project. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Bolen is a native of California and came to New Mexico from Texas in 2002. She was once an executive with Cost Plus World Market but became a full-time artist upon moving to the Land of Enchantment. She now travels the country with her husband attending art shows to sell her work.

To recruit people for her project, Bolen created a group on a social media platform called MeetUp, which allows people to plan events around a common interest. The public responded. She said the sessions, which were held one weekend a month, attracted up to 12 participants sometimes. Participants ranged from novices to professional artists.

Bolen provided the clay, other supplies and technical assistance. She asked participants for a $5 donation to cover supplies but it was not required. A friend of Bolen’s donated the use of her kiln to fire the pottery.

The OFFCenter studio is located on Park Avenue SW in Downtown Albuquerque. The center’s executive director, Bob Allen, said the organization was founded 20 years ago to provide a therapeutic outlet for anyone, regardless of income or artistic experience.

“The basics, what we need are food and water, and shelter helps as well,” he said. “But people also need a way to express themselves in a way that is creative.”

Artist Vicki Bolen holds a ceramic plate that will be for sale March 2-4 at her studio, Little Bird de Papel.

The center gets approximately 45 to 60 people a day, many of them homeless or those who have no experience as an artist. The center provides not only art supplies, but free workshops in card making, writing, painting, drawing, guitar, ukulele, and knitting and crocheting circles.

Anyone can hang their art in the center’s gallery and there are monthly shows featuring works by the center’s patrons and local artists.

“The diversity of the people here is incredible,” Allen said. “Here it’s all about offering opportunities and making art available to everyone.”

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