Community Cups for Kids

A collaborative project that continues to grow…

Doane Student Erin glazing a cup

There is no better feeling than using your talents and skills to give back to the community in a unique way. As an art professor at Doane College, I am always seeking opportunities to connect my students and their artwork with the community at large. Community Cups for Kids began as a collaborative project between my ceramics classes to design and create 50 cups to raise funds for Voices for Children in Nebraska, a non-profit children’s advocacy group.

My students quickly expanded the project beyond the ceramics studio, inviting campus clubs, fraternities and organizations to participate in creating and decorating the cups, or to lend a hand in other ways to support and expand the project. Alumni of the Doane College art program got involved, donating cups and larger collaborative works to be auctioned off, and assisting in various capacities.

Community Cups for Kids exhibitCups are particularly symbolic for this project because a cup is at once functional and beautiful. It feeds the body as well as the spirit. A cup is an intimate object, cradled in the hands and brought to the lips. It is used every day, holding aromatic liquids that remind us of home and effortlessly warm our hearts. Exhibiting the cups in a house shaped framework creates a further connection to the importance of a safe home. Much like this framework, Voices for Children in Nebraska works to ensure children are protected and secure.

The initial 50 cups were displayed and sold in Nyrop Hall during the Doane College Homecoming weekend in October. The event was warmly received by college and community members, with the majority of the cups selling during the opening reception. This inspired me to broaden the scope of the project. This past weekend, 100 cups decorated by Albia Elementary School students were featured at the Nite Gallery in Albia, Iowa, during the Victorian Stroll. They will remain available for purchase throughout the holidays season.

Artist Statements for each of the Albia student-decorated cups on exhibit

Albia students wrote a brief story about their cup.


3 Albia Students show off their cups during the Albia Victorian Stroll

Thanks to generous donations of both time and materials from many sources, 100 percent of all proceeds will be donated to Voices for Children in Nebraska. Contributors so far include: current and former ceramics students at Doane College, regional ceramic suppliers like Flint Hills Clay Works and Bracker’s Good Earth Clays, national ceramic suppliers AMACO, community members like Catherine Burkman, and ceramic artists from across the Midwest.

Dr. Tom Tonniges, Judy Tonniges, and Eric L. Stearns

Dr. Tom Tonniges, Judy Tonniges, and Eric L. Stearns

Voices for Children in Nebraska is an advocacy group that focuses on helping lawmakers develop and pass policies that create a better life for Nebraska’s children. They rely solely on grants and donations for funding, as they are an independent, non-profit organization. Selecting this charity as the beneficiary of our fundraising grew out of my deep admiration for my mentor and friend, Dr. Tom Tonniges.

Tom has been living and advocating the mission of Voices for Children in Nebraska for the past 40 years. His dedication to this charity, to pediatric health care in the state of Nebraska, and to Doane College is well documented, and a personal inspiration. He focuses on all children, but has a special place in his heart for kids with special needs or those who are in the foster care system. I am proud to join him in supporting such an important mission and am honored to be a part of bettering the lives of Nebraska’s children.