Person of the Week
It’s in the Bag: Creative Support for ‘Soup for Good TO GO’
Volunteer, teacher, and artist Amy Peters is helping to piece together artful fabric bags that will be packed with take-out containers of soup and more for participants of Guilford Art Center (GAC) Soup for Good TO GO on Sunday, Dec. 6. Peters is hard at work with her friend and co-GAC volunteer Ellen Cordes to build enough bags as a way to give a gift of art to supporters during year when COVID-19 restrictions have made some changes to the annual fundraising event. Proceeds benefit non-profit GAC and non-profit Community Dining Room of Branford. (Photo courtesy of Amy Peters)
Using donated sourced materials like these colorful ribbons, Amy Peters is helping to piece together artful fabric bags. (Photo courtesy of Amy Peters)
“It’s a beloved event that’s reinvented for this year, and we hope that its equally beloved this way,” says Amy Peters of Guilford Art Center’s (GAC) Soup for Good TO GO, set for Sunday, Dec. 6, from 2 to 4 p.m. at GAC.
The popular annual gathering and fundraiser to benefit the shoreline programs of non-profit GAC and non-profit Community Dining Room (CDR) of Branford will be a bit different when it takes place this year. Like so many other 2020 events, Soup for Good has made a pandemic pivot to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions and protocols. So instead of bringing home a handmade pottery bowl from this year’s Soup for Good experience, guests will take away their soup in a take-away container nestled in a handcrafted, reusable fabric bag. Right now, each bag is being pieced together in a variety of artful designs by Amy and her good friend and co-GAC volunteer, Ellen Cordes.
“We’re hard at work! Ellen’s such a good volunteer. She’s a really giving member of Guilford Art Center,” says Amy, an immediate GAC past board member, a current GAC art teacher, and a longtime GAC volunteer.
Each year, Amy and Ellen help GAC with running an artists’ dinner for all the artists who come to Expo on the Guilford Green (canceled this year due to COVID-19) and with organizing Soup for Good, an event that’s always highly anticipated by GAC and CDR supporters.
“People love Soup for Good—there’s always a sense of community, and you do get a piece of art, usually, the bowl,” says Amy. “I know how much people love the bowls. They’ll line up a half hour, an hour in advance because they want to get first pick. But takes a lot to produce 100 bowls even when the pottery studio’s at full capacity, and we’re at about half capacity,”
Without the ability to produce enough bowls for the event, this year’s Soup for Good could have simply offered take-out soup containers to match its “to go” approach—until Amy and Ellen got to talking.
“Ellen and I concocted this together,” says Amy. “Ellen has been very, very busy sewing masks, so she’s gotten quite good at sewing. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we still let everyone have a piece of art this year, in the form of a handmade bag?’ And inside the bag, you get your container of soup, a [split] of wine, some chocolate, some bread, a coupon to the [GAC] shop. Its just a cute little soup ‘to go’ bag.”
Amy brought the bags-instead-of-bowls idea to GAC Executive Director Maureen Belden, who was delighted to add their creative concept to this year’s Soup for Good TO GO. Since then, Amy and Ellen have been sourcing and creating the fabric bags to prepare enough in time for Dec. 6.
Amy specializes in mixed media visual arts and is enjoying building bags with vivid colors using materials such as ribbons, while Ellen is also enjoying composing bags in her artistic style.
“I tend toward the funky colorful, and Ellen’s more toward the more muted,” says Amy of their artistic styles.
The two will make at least 150 bags, and more, if needed. Thanks to their hands-on volunteer effort and generous event support from Cate’s Sew Modern, Panera Bread, and Shoreline Wine Merchants, proceeds from ticket sales for Soup for Good TO GO will help assist GAC and CDR in a year when financial support is very much needed and not easy to come by.
As Belden notes, “this year has been very financially difficult for shoreline non-profits, including GAC and CDR. All our fundraising events were canceled, so we hope the community will rally around us and support Soup for Good.”
Ticket holders will receive a bag packed with a choice of three homemade soups, bread, a split of wine, and a sweet treat, as well as a discount coupon for The Shop at GAC and an entry into a drawing to win handmade bowls by GAC potters and autographed copies of Jacques Pépin’s newest cookbook Quicvk & Simple. The Holiday Shop at GAC will be open for special shopping hours on Sunday, Dec. 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. (open to the public).
Even if tickets sell out, anyone who donates $30 to the event will still be entered into the drawings for the bowls and cookbooks as well as receive the soup recipes; while also assisting in such a very critical time to support the important work of GAC and CDR.
Keeping Art—and Altruism—at the Fore
Amy says she and Ellen are delighted to be able to help GAC provide the bags as an art component and a special thank-you those who will come out to support Soup for Good TO GO and the continuing missions of GAC and CDR during the pandemic.
“I understand that, during this tough financial time for everyone, [Soup for Good TO GO without an art component] would still be a way to raise money for the center, and people would probably do that to be good to the center, because people know we are a non-profit art center,” says Amy. “But it also comes down to giving them an art component because we are an art center. People are so good to us about coming back to Soup for Good, year after year after year, to support us and CDR. And by some estimates, food insecurity in Connecticut’s up by 50 percent since COVID started. A lot of people may think ‘not in these towns,’ but of course, that’s not true.”
Located in the Patricia C. Andriole Volunteer Center in Branford, non-profit CDR serves the food insecure of the shoreline from East Haven to Old Saybrook by providing meals, support and companionship and helping with other basic human needs. Serving residents across the shoreline area and beyond, non-profit GAC was established 50 years ago in Guilford to nurture and support excellence in the arts through education, communication, and outreach.
A Madison resident, Amy teaches art at The Country School in Madison and also offers private lessons. She served on the GAC board from 2005 to 2019, has taught art to youth at GAC for 20 years, and has volunteered there for even more years.
“My kids went to GAC,” says Amy. “And with my role on the board, it was really interesting to be on the inside and see how things work—and it works pretty beautifully there. And then being a volunteer—it feels good to give back. And I’ve had the gift of being a teacher there. I say there’s no better job than being an art teacher, and it’s really true. I’m lucky.”
As the pandemic began impacting the area, GAC worked to develop classes and programs that could be offered based on evolving, state-approved COVID-19 guidelines. For the fall semester, GAC set up a hybrid selection of courses and pop-up programs for children and adults, ranging from small group, on-campus classes to online classes for remote study across many art forms.
“It’s interesting how COVID is reshaping it,” says Amy, adding, “I do like to say that art sparks joy. There’s actually science that proves it releases [serotonin] and then there’s just hard science that shows creating art releases stress and anxiety. So more than ever during COVID, make art. Keep a doodle book by you. Just make art. It sparks joy, and it sparks comfort and relief from stress.”
For her own part, Amy says, “Art’s really the core of my life—music, visual art, the written arts. I often reflect what would the world be like without art. That’s why I just think places like the GAC, they’re kind of the glue that holds our culture together. It’s where we can create [and] imagine, and it has impacted so many aspects of my life. My kids took classes there and really grew in so many interesting ways.”
“They took a foraging class, a blacksmithing class—who gets to do that? It’s like a second family to me, the art center,” she adds. “It’s really a very meaningful place to me. So I love to support it.”
Guilford Art Center (GAC) presents Soup for Good TO GO on Sunday, Dec. 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. at GAC, 411 Church Street, Guilford. Tickets, $30 per person, are available at www.guilfordartcenter.org and must be purchased by Friday, Dec. 4. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or requests for more information. Proceeds benefit non-profit GAC and non-profit Community Dining Room of Branford.