Located in the West-End Millworks, the Olio is a nonprofit community arts organization and glassblowing studio. We learned a bit more about the organization from the founder and Executive Director, Rebeccah Byer.
How did you develop the idea for the Olio?
When I was 19, I was struggling as a student in college, floundering a lot, and I found a glassblowing class by accident. I immediately fell in love with the heat, the danger, and the process, and I knew it was for me. The second day of class I declared I was going to start a “glass school for kids” and that is where the apprentice program originated, I always knew I wanted to teach teens. Everything else, selling products and teaching classes to adults, seemed a logical way to serve that purpose and help to pay for it. Sustainability and Social Enterprise weren’t terms we used much in 1993, it just made sense to plan it this way, and now we are lucky the concepts are much more commonplace and getting even more so.
Why was Winston-Salem the ideal place for you to locate the studio?
Truthfully my plan was to open this shop wherever I lived, whenever it worked out for me, however I could. I was 19 and very determined to make this happen in my life somehow. Winston-Salem was a great choice to move from Chicago in 2006, I was pregnant with my first child and the weather and affordability made it very desirable, plus it was the ‘city of the arts’ without a glassblowing furnace, so it seemed like a great fit. It wasn’t until much after we moved here that I truly learned the full history and connection to art, and it couldn’t be a more perfect fit.
Beyond glassblowing, explain your organization’s mission.
Our goal is to be a connector and builder of social capital, primarily through our apprentice program, but really in several different ways. We think that by making a connection to learning through the arts and entrepreneurship, we empower our participants with life skills, business skills, new relationships, and a different perspective on community, sustainability, and each other. We also think that the future of business is in Social Enterprise, and we want to be a resource for non-profits and for-profits alike to help them connect and grow and thrive. In addition, we are growing our glass recycle system, to help divert it from the landfills, educate about sustainability, and save everyone some money. We have some lofty goals!
How can people participate in your organization?
We have programs for all ages, interests, and budgets! Field Trips, Team Builders, Private Lessons, One-Time Workshops, Extended Classes, Youth Apprenticeships, and Private Parties. Our Showroom/Retail Shop is open Tuesday – Saturday 11 – 3, however, we offer classes and groups at various hours and by appointment or registration. We have glass for sale in numerous retail partner locations in Winston-Salem and the region. Purchases all support our mission, we offer memberships and special discounts, and because we are a 501c3, donations are tax-deductible. Our website www.theolio.org is the best place for classes and program information, and our online shopping experience is always improving.
The Chamber’s Keep it Local initiative promotes community support for local business ventures. Spending locally creates a strong economy and a sense of place which gives our town its unique lifestyle. The Keep it Local campaign will feature a different segment of businesses each month in 2018. February is Arts and Innovation Month.