Civic Warriors

Organizational Transformation that Deepens Impact Within a Community and Creates Opportunity

Civic Warriors Podcast Episode 2: GlassRoots

Barbara Heisler, CEO, shares how GlassRoots is a metaphor for the constituents it serves but also for the transformation the organization is undergoing to bring more to the community of Newark. Listen in as Withum’s Brad Caruso and

Glass arts is a vehicle for changing people's lives.


This podcast was transcribed through a third-party application. Please disregard any misrepresentations.

Civic Warriors: Innovative, dynamic, gritty, determined, warrior.

Civic Warriors: This podcast is about the innovators, the leaders on the front lines of adversity, the all around good people doing good deeds. They are the civic warriors of the world. Our guests are the leaders in the nonprofit industry effecting change. They try, they fail, they overcome through their stories. We can join forces to become civic warriors.

Brad Caruso: So here we are with Barbara Heisler, who is the executive director, president and CEO of GlassRoots, a wonderful nonprofit here in Newark. And she’s going to run the show today. Heather and I are going to be here to answer questions cause that’s how it goes here. Um, so we’re here today to talk about GlassRoots, which is a fun little, not even a little, but a fun nonprofit that does, has a lot of impact in the city of Newark, uh, for the students of the city of Newark. Uh, and, and for really the local community. And, uh, we’ve worked with them. I’ve worked with GlassRoots for several years now. Uh, Barbara’s been here for just about six years and, uh, has really taken the organization into a another direction. Um, moving the organization to go forward and ultimately, uh, bringing the organization through their campaign. Big capital campaign. So for those of you that don’t know GlassRoots, uh, their mission is: GlassRoots, ignites and builds the creative and economic vitality of greater Newark with a focus on underserved youth and young adults through the transformative power of the glass art experience. And some of you today are going to learn about glass making a little bit. We’re going to learn about the challenges you face at a being a not-for-profit organization and we’re going to learn about the fun things that GlassRoots is doing, uh, to help build and expand their existing programs to create an even bigger impact. So with that, welcome to our show Barbara.

Barbara Heisler: Well thanks. So glad to have you here at GlassRoots in Newark.

Heather Campisi: Yes. Thank you so much. And I love actually how the glass symbolizes the whole shaping of the young adults who come through and how you give them purpose and passion and they can kind of craft and mold their own futures. Just like, just like they would mold this glass piece. And what they think it might turn out to be might be something totally different than what they expected. And I think that’s so, so parallel to how life, how life is when you can come into this.

Barbara Heisler: It’s a great metaphor and you’ve got it. You’ve got it right on. So I tried to get us on some kind of media every year, use it the whole year, which is awesome. But I’ve been plugging Cake Boss for like a couple of years and everyone’s like, when’s it coming up? But apparently it’s out now, but I don’t get discovery channel.

Brad Caruso: Why cake boss?

Barbara Heisler: Uh, well, two and a half years ago it was actually a very popular show.

Brad Caruso: Oh yeah, no, I know what it is. Yeah.

Barbara Heisler: But so the whole idea is just to get exposure, right? Supposedly we were, we, we were having a, we’ve made a party up. We were having a launch party for our capital campaign. And he made a cake to celebrate the capital campaign and he made a glass cake. So the glass, the cake is supposed to look like glass with and it has blown sugar ornaments on it.

Heather Campisi: Reaching out to these shows. How did that actually transpire? Did you it was just a shot in the dark and you said, just let me try it.

Barbara Heisler: We try to stay really active on social media so we get picked up on things.

Heather Campisi: That’s great. And is that all you or is that, do you have other people helping you?

Speaker 4: Yeah, no. We’re starting, uh, I we’re going to adopt a budget next week. I hope I can get this board packet out. And um, in that budget is a halftime communications and development director and we actually got funding for it already. I got a grant for it, so now I just needed.

Brad Caruso: Oh, that’s awesome.

Barbara Heisler: I just need the board to approve it in the budget and then I can hire. Yeah. And then we’ll actually have a real marketing person.

Heather Campisi: That’s so exciting.

Barbara Heisler: I’m really excited. Yeah.

Heather Campisi: And how much time now with that take off your plate so you can focus on other things? Like my laundry list of all the items.

Barbara Heisler: So I have actually doing about four jobs right now, so I’ll just go down to one job. But my director of finance started, my director of operations started on Monday.

Brad Caruso: Yeah. Things are going well.

Heather Campisi: What kind of consulting do you do?

Barbara Heisler: Nonprofit. That’s actually how I came here. I came here as a consultant.

Heather Campisi: Cool. So for what, what piece of it do you look at the whole organization? What’s your.

Barbara Heisler: So I have a degree in, um, organizational development. So I basically think about organizations as systems, right? And you kind of look at what’s happening in an organization and you figure out where the system’s broken down and try to fix that.

Heather Campisi: Totally makes sense. Why you get along with us. I like, okay, here’s the system here is, yeah.

Barbara Heisler: But this is, as I said, is just a, it’s just so interesting, right? It’s just for a little organization. It’s very complex. There’s lots of lots of moving parts. Um, such a dynamic mission, uh, such important work. And a very unique way to approach that work. So it was just so interesting to me. It was interesting to me that, um, your organization was undervaluing itself. It, it had so much more to give to the community, um, but wasn’t really seeing that or fulfilling that. So for example, within the last six years we started workforce programs for post high school. We actually have three programs have one that leads to a job, one that, you know, uh, uh, well-paying, like a good job that leads to the middle income, you know, like scientific glass blowing, which is, you know, very much in demand and very under staffed. Uh, we have one that leads to entrepreneurship for low income people, mostly women. We focus on helping women to start small businesses to create supplemental income. And then our third, uh, post high school program is a fellowship program which, um, enables the participants to earn college credits and start college. And so that program has been wildly successful. We have, um, students completing college, completing associates degrees, enrolled in college, kids that, you know, are young adults that hadn’t even thought about going to college or didn’t kind of understand what that path looked like for them. So, uh, so it’s been really, uh, you know, a great joy to help this organization realize how much more impactful it can be. And now we’re moving, we’re moving, uh, from this space that we’re in right now, which is, uh, a 5,700 square foot space that really isn’t configured well for, for what we do. And we’re on two floors. We’re not ADA com, you know, accessible. Oh, we have to always make, you know, we always make accommodations, which means moving classes off the second floor down to the first floor if we have to, but, um, nothing’s easy around that and it shouldn’t be that difficult. So we’re moving to this incredible 25,000 square foot space.

Heather Campisi: Oh my goodness. That’s huge compared to where you are no. So much.

Barbara Heisler: Um, just about a third of a mile from where we are. So we’re not changing our neighborhood. We’re not, not, not moving out of Newark, but we’re creating a new destination in Newark, a new place for, um, you know, not only the community that we serve to be able to take advantage of all of all of what GlassRoots has to offer, but, um, you know, a new place for people, not familiar with Newark to come to see glassblowing and action to visit in incredible glass galleries to see our gift shop, to just participate with us in brand new ways. So that’s really exciting.

Heather Campisi: That’s awesome. So when are you moving?

Barbara Heisler: Hopefully at the end of the year? Yes. I’m hoping it’s going to be the end of the year.

Heather Campisi: New year, new space.

Barbara Heisler: New year, new space. Really fun thing about our new space is that one of our donors, a very, very generous donor who gave us some, a significant gift for our new space, um, has also privately commissioned, uh, uh, a piece of art to be created to adorn our new space. And, um, so this is actually two sisters, two sisters are, are that make up the donor. And, um, so when you walk into the new space, you’ll walk in and you’ll see the back of two young people, um, blowing glass as if they were sitting in front of the, the furnace. Um, you’ll see one young person sitting on a bench holding the punty pipe and looking at, um, the piece that he is working on and you’ll see another young artist, uh, actually blowing into the glass pipe. So, um, and the, there’s two really great parts of this and relative to Pittsburgh. So the first really great part of this is that the faces of these young people are actual students of course. So there are glass castings that were done of actual students, actual GlassRoots, uh, students. So, uh, they will forever be immortalized at GlassRoots. Um, and secondly, the artist that’s doing this is a Pittsburgh last artist named Dean Allison. So he works out of a studio in Pittsburgh, not at Pittsburgh Flass, but he works with Pittsburgh Flass quite a bit. And he’s fashioning this fabulous piece of art for us.

Heather Campisi: Have you seen pieces of it or are you waiting to see it when it’s finally done?

Barbara Heisler: So he came, here to do the, the cast, the molds of the two students. I wasn’t here that day, unfortunately. I was on a trip far away, but, but luckily I got to see the photos because with amazing foresight our donor also commissioned a photographer to document the whole process. Right. So, um, you can see that on our website, um, we have a under support, it’s called Dean’s Blog. And so some of the photos of Dean doing the casting work and, and subsequent, uh, pieces, he’s now working with the molds that he made. And I think there’s some pictures up there now with him. Um, manipulating the molds because basically what we’ll do is he creates these plaster molds and then he creates, he pours wax into them to create a wax version of the sculpture. And then he sculpts it. He, he, because not everything comes out as crisp and as clean as he would want. So he as an artist will go in and sculpt pieces to make it. Yeah. And then he creates another, um, mold from that, from the glass mold. And then that’s what the wax will eventually, I mean, the glass will, eventually the wax will melt. It melt out and the glass will be poured into it. Um, and that’s what will create the glass scuplture.

Brad Caruso: Wow. That’s going to be exciting. So how big is this structure going to be?

Barbara Heisler: So it’s going to be on a five foot, five foot by seven foot. The sculpture itself will be about three by five and it won’t be, their full bodies will be, uh, you know, you’ll see a person sitting on the bench, but you won’t see it. Like, you know, her feet. Yeah. Sneakers. That’s okay. He’ll just have to go. You’ll have to imagine. Yeah.

Brad Caruso: This is exciting. Right? That’s why I said, you know, times or times or times are a changing and uh, you know, it’s exciting. Uh, as us, you know, we, every year we come in, we always hear more and more. As you’re getting deeper and deeper into this and you know, it’s exciting to hear that you’re going to move into a space five times as big, that you’re going to be able to do 10 times more than you’re doing, which is.

Barbara Heisler: I have to tell you that at one point his staff said, you know, it’s just not big enough. I kind of looked at them incredulously yeah.

Brad Caruso: Oh, the new space.

Barbara Heisler: Wait a minute. Uh, it’s funny because, uh, the, the owners said to us at one point that they might need some space for, uh, you know, an electric room or something like that. And I was like, no, we have the entire space programmed. And they said, it’s enormous. You mean you have the entire space programmed? I said, yeah, we have an entire space programmed, we know what we’re doing in every inch of the space. I mean, there were so many things that we’ve wanted to do for so long. We have, you know, as part of our bead shop program, the shop where we teach, um, low income women how to make jewelry and create supplemental income, they have to photograph their jewelry in order to put them on their online shops, on Etsy shops or, um, even to sell them retail or host wholesale. So we’ll have a photography studio, not just a little place set up in the hallway like we do now because photographing glass is quite a, it’s, it’s difficult. It’s very hard to photograph glass. Um, we, uh, have a couple of shelves downstairs right now, which was our packing and shipping area. Um, because we earn a lot of our income and not only do we teach entrepreneurship, we act entrepreneurially, so we do commissions or we make products for sale. And, um, you’ll see on the shelves downstairs, you know, right now there’s rows and rows of elephants for a customer who has ordered 200 hand-blown elephants, employee rewards. And they’re, they’re gorgeous. I mean, they’re right, they’re works of art, but each one has to be hand wrapped and shipped out. And so in our new space we’ll have a shipping area and we’re working with Crozier Fine Arts handlers, which is, uh, a well known art handling company. And this’ll be an entree point for young people to learn more about art handling and perhaps get into Crozier Fine Arts handling training program and other career paths. So everything has a purpose. There’s not a wasted inch of space in this.

Heather Campisi: That’s so exciting. That’s so great that you’ve just thought about every single piece of it.

Barbara Heisler: Oh, this is great. We’re really excited. We’re talking to some of the local colleges and universities about creating classes using our space for their art or architecture or design or, um, you know, whatever majors they have that are applicable, uh, material science. Um, and I’m really excited about the thought of our high school students working side by side with college students.

Brad Caruso: I mean, that’s another intangible that you can’t measure, but, but that, that’s role models without being role models, which is fantastic.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah. You know, we want our kids to see themselves in college.

Heather Campisi: Yeah. This could be me.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Brad Caruso: I’m reading your wall and is says The as a leader is one who knows the way it goes away and shows the way. So yeah, yeah, yeah. Well that’s hand in hand with that.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah. I mean that’s really our summer leadership program is that’s a leftover from our summer leadership program. And um, yeah, we, I mean, I guess the most important thing to know about GlassRoots is that while we love the glass arts and we, we think they’re amazing for us, they’re a vehicle, they’re a vehicle to changing people’s lives. And you know, whether we use them hands on like scientific glass blowing or the bead shop or we use them as a metaphor. For example, in our youth entrepreneurship program, all of our young people over the course of a year learn all about entrepreneurship. And at the end of the year, they present their business plans for businesses they’ve created using glass as the business. Now they don’t need to actually create, I don’t think any of them or maybe a very small percentage will go on to actually have glass based businesses. We have had students that have graduated, one young woman, um, created a business making, um, barrettes and other kinds of hair accessories and she actually went on to to keep that business going after her program. But most of our students, the point is not for them to create a glass based business. The point of them is to understand what business and entrepreneurship entails, what it means to be a good employee, what it means to be an entrepreneur, how you make a living in this gig society. We have what you need to do to prepare, you know, what college plays as a role in that or what apprenticeships or internships, you know, things that lot of our young people here in Newark never hear about or think about. Um, we use our glass programs to introduce them to whole new worlds.

Heather Campisi: Yeah. That’s a fun way to do it. It’s a fun way. Yeah. Just to be so creative about it.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah, it is. And, and, and we literally introduced them to new worlds too. I mean, you’d be amazed at the number of our students. I’ve never been to New York city. You can see it across the rougher yeah. Yeah. You’ve never been. So students in our fellowship program will get them a MTA pass and give them instructions on how to meet us at a museum. Yeah. And they have to get themselves there.

Brad Caruso: Yeah. But uh, yeah, no, I, it’s funny cause a lot of, most of the folks that we’ve been talking to, which is, which is I think the common theme and one of the things I think you hear a lot in the nonprofit world is just like sense of community. And I know that just in any, uh, you know, one thing that really gives people kind of like hope and drive is not necessarily like themselves, but it’s, it’s the community around them that, okay, now I’m around other people who are doing the same thing in the same boat as me. I’m with other people that actually care enough to show me to do something. So I want to impress them too. And it’s like that, you know, human nature of, I not only want to like impress myself, but I want to, I want to, I want to be a part of this community too. Right? I want to add to the community. I don’t want to just be in it. I want to add to it. That’s, I think that’s a cool part of what you guys do.

Barbara Heisler: Well, I think that’s, I mean for us that has several layers. You know this, the onion right? The Outside of the onion as being in Newark and Newark is an incredible community to work in. It’s um, it’s such an interesting place. It’s going through such big change right now. Um, just the six years that I’ve been here, it tremendous things have happened. We’ve seen changes with leadership at the Rutgers University, Newark at the Newark Museum, um, in the city hall. So, you know, lots of, lots of, there’ve been many impacts of those kinds of leadership changes. We’ve seen investment in Newark like never before. Um, I bought my kitchen table in the 1980s at the Haynes department store, which in 2003 when I was in Leadership New Jersey, I took a tour of this decrepit, uh, building that, you know, at the time was they were going to develop it into a single unit occupancies, SROs. And I was really nervous about that, you know. Fortunately for the city, I think unfortunately for the developer that fell through and the building laid dormant for another 10 years. But in 2013 around the time that I came, a group of investors came in and that is just a centerpiece of a new city. Now, you know, in the Haynes building, uh, there are banks, there is a pet shop, there is a beautiful kind of boutique wine shop. There’s a Whole Foods, there’s a citizen action organization, there’s a,we work kind of organization. There’s residential units and you know, 20 of the units are filled by people that work at Audible, which has made an incredible investment in the city. Um, it’s, it’s kind of symbolic of what’s happening here. You know, Nancy Cantor, who’s the chancellor at Rutgers University in Newark, has talked about, um, their participation in that building. There’s a, there’s a Rutgers artistic, uh, area in the building. And, um, she talked about the importance of the atrium of the building, not being the end of the Rutgers campus, but being, uh, through to the rest of Newark because now there’s this whole open space. And we actually had our, uh, our fall soiree there, uh, two years ago. We honored the developers of that space, L+M Development Partners who had been really great to GlassRoots. And we had our, our evening event in the atrium. And it was so much fun being in this great open space with this, these ground stairwells and just beautiful architecture around us and having the community around us as we’re having our event. You know, people were stopping and saying, who are you? What are you doing? How do we find out more about you? Um, so that was really, really fun. So that, so that first piece of the onion, the outside of the onion is this great community of Newark. And then within that first peel or is the artistic community and the artistic community as is a whole other thing. I mean, there are just amazing artists here in Newark. People really who have been here for the long run, who are really invested in this community. You know, unfortunately we’ve lost two in the last year and a half, two very significant artists have passed. Um, but there’s a whole young group that’s coming up as well. And, um, our teaching artists are totally invested in this artistic community here in Newark. So it’s great to see the, you know, we held a, um, an artist open house one night and had 25 artists come to learn more about how we can interact, what kind of, you know, cross medium work we could do together. And, um, it’s, it’s just, it’s phenomenal. So there’s that second peel, right? And then underneath that there’s the GlassRoots community and that GlassRoots community, um, is exemplified – staff call it family. Um, it’s not unusual to see an email that says, Hey, GlassRoots family with some kind of announcement and um, you know, and it’s, Hey, Glassroots family, staff monthly reports are due next week.

Brad Caruso: Tough love family.

Barbara Heisler: But it’s, it’s really wonderful to see how this art, you know, our community of staff and students and board really coalesce around who we are and what we’re here to do. And we don’t lose students. You know, I, I had a, a young student come by and spend a couple of hours me last week. Um, he is applying to college. He was, uh, here in our high school programs, uh, went on through our scientific glass program and then eventually our, our fellowship program through our fellowship program, went to community college, finished an associates degree program and is now going on for a four year degree. Now, this hasn’t happened sequentially because there’s been some spits and stops to earn some money to work. Um, but the student came in to spend a couple of hours with me to talk about, you know, how, how he’ll fund, uh, higher education and you know, what are different sources of financing and, you know, kind of how to set goals in college. And so once you’re part of this family, we don’t let you go. Yeah. Right.

Brad Caruso: But that, I mean I think about the resource that is, I mean, you know, think about your background and not only is it, I’m the executive director of this organization and that’s what, you know. So I think some people don’t realize when they’re part of an organization, like people have some history background where, I mean you have a lot of diverse knowledge that’s outside of just, yeah, this is how you do a budget or this is how we run, this is how we changed the strategy. I mean there’s a lot behind that and, and I think it’s great that people are reaching out to you and kind of kind of getting that or, or, or, you know, actively… Cause I’m sure that makes you feel good is when one of your students is like, Hey, what do I do about this?

Barbara Heisler: Absolutely but It’s not just me. Right? You’ll see students come in and talk to our, our teaching artists about, you know, how to present for a show or meet with our board members who bring like incredible richness. I mean my board is, I have art dealers, I have builders, I have, um, community volunteers. I have researchers, I have educators, you know, I have arts educators. It’s, it’s a really diverse board who are always willing to come forward and, and be here for our students and not just our current students. It’s not, you know, it’s not if you’re with us today, it’s, have you ever been with us? And if you’ve ever been with us or still with us.

Heather Campisi: It’s refreshing. Like hands on, you know. But it’s nice to know that cause some boards are so different. They’re like, okay, we’ll go and we’ll come out with this to see that they’re so dedicated and so just invested with the students and consistently.

Barbara Heisler: Well that’s a process too. That’s a process too. Part of it is, you know, this is not about this board, but there’s a whole piece of, you know, people don’t come to a board to come to board meetings and to kind of make decisions. There’s some investment. And uh, you know, there’s always this tension in nonprofits about, you know, board leadership and met versus management. Um, and how do you, how do you engage your board in a way that’s meaningful to them that makes the time that they spend with the organization meaningful, which isn’t kind of day to day management work. Right? Which is where a lot of times boards get bogged down, right? Board members are really comfortable if they’re a banker, they really want to just, you know, have their hands in the financials. And you as the manager, you want to say your job is oversight and leadership.

Brad Caruso: Do you feel that there’s different aspects on your board or different people on your board that should serve different roles? Or do you feel that, you know, just based on, based on your comment that the most important thing is they’re not necessarily role on the board but their investment in the organization. What do you, what do you feel in that aspect? Like you hear sometimes that like, Oh, you know, you can either bring, some wise person once told me, you can either bring, you know, your board members should bring you their wealth, wisdom or work. You have some people that are going to do the work. Some people that are going to bring money and some people that um, are just smart.

Barbara Heisler: And that’s right. Yeah, that’s right. Um, and different people have different capacities at different times, right? Depending I have, you know, a really engaged board member who just changed jobs and you know, you start a new job, you know, that’s your life for a little while. So, you know, their ability to engage has changed and

Brad Caruso: It’s another wealth turned into work.

Barbara Heisler: Or work has turned into wealth.

Brad Caruso: We need to, we need to change not the board member. Yeah. Shift the responsibility.

Barbara Heisler: Or expectation.

Brad Caruso: expectations. The expectations is a better word. Yeah. Yeah.

Barbara Heisler: But there are also times in an organization’s life, so, so we’re, I’m 18 years old and so, and kind of a life cycle, um, you would think that we would be at a place where our board was more advisory and less hands on, but we’re almost becoming a new organization again. So. Right. So instead of being at a place of kind of board maturity, we’re back at a growth stage in our organization. So, so board members who in the past have they been able to, you know, be more hands off and more advisory, more policy oriented, more strategically oriented. We now need a little bit more, you know, shovels in the dirt. Um, and, and managing that is a challenge too, right? Cause we want those certain shovels, not all shovels. Um, but, you know, I, I just, this is a really great board GlassRoots has, you know, has been, it has a really great board. You know, it’s not that everything’s always very smooth, but when I think about the boards I’ve worked with over the years, this is a pretty fabulous board and it’s the right board for the right time, so that’s great.

Brad Caruso: How involved are you with, uh, board recruitment?

Barbara Heisler: Pretty, yeah, so we, uh, when I got here, uh, we still had a founders board, so six years ago, 13 years in, um, to our organization. The majority of our board was the original board and, uh, there was very little diversity on it. Socioeconomically, racially, uh, age wise, and particularly geographically, we really didn’t have anyone on our board that lived in Newark. It was a super interesting, it was a full suburban board. Now that was really important at one time in this organization’s life. And I think about what Newark was like, you know, 18, 19 years ago. There weren’t a lot of resources to pull on, or the resources in Newark were otherwise engaged. I mean there’s a lot going on in Newark. So, um, you know, the ability of suburban people to kind of really be invested in the future of Newark and the future of young people in Newark was interesting and important. But as the organization grew, it’s also a time to get investment of people in the community. So a big piece about six years ago was to really focus on, um, all of those diversities. So we are now much more diverse racially and ethnically, uh, age wise, gender wise, and geographically. Um, and it’s something we’re really proud of, but it’s been a lot of work. It’s a lot.

Brad Caruso: It’s a lot of work.

Barbara Heisler: It’s a lot of work.

Brad Caruso: Board recruitment as a full time job.

Barbara Heisler: Sometimes we’ve also, um, and but we did, we reorganized our board so that we have a governance committee that was responsible for doing that kind of outreach and um, helping to not only cultivate but then educate board members because a lot of times where it falls flat is you get somebody good on your board and then nobody is involved with them. So that’s, that’s a problem. Um, I feel strongly that boards need to manage themselves, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not very involved with the board. As a matter of fact, I’m going to leave you at four o’clock to go meet with a board member. Another cup of coffee because in the afternoon I really need one.

Brad Caruso: Yeah, number three of the day.

Barbara Heisler: So, so you know, it’s funny, it’s kind of like everything is a balance. Everything’s a balance. So there’s different places in an organization where people are very, uh, single minded, right? They have, they have one job and they do their jobs really well. And then there’s other roles in the organization where you’re never doing one thing. You’re, you know, one day, maybe fiscal, one day, maybe programmatic, one day, maybe development, one day, maybe marketing when you know, it’s, it’s every day’s a little different. And, um, and that’s another balancing act, right? So there’s…

Brad Caruso: Yeah, we find that in our profession. I mean, that’s, it’s like, you know, one, one day we could be doing this or doing something really fun,. Another day, you know, you’re sitting there grinding behind a computer type, type it into an Excel spreadsheet. Another day or meet with people another day you’re doing marketing another day, you’re trying to figure out where are we going to be in five years and how the heck do we not fail? How do we change? Yeah.

Barbara Heisler: Sounds like us, right?

Brad Caruso: Yeah, it’s the same thing. It’s, yeah, that’s, that’s the challenge. Big and small. But I mean, you’re, you’re a nonprofit that doesn’t have as much resources maybe as a, as an accounting firm or as, as you know, a big organization.

Barbara Heisler: But people don’t realize that, you know, I got a call and, um, sales call and say, are you the owner? And I say, no, New Jersey owns us. Right. And you’re like, what? Yeah. Well, like, well, you asked. People don’t understand that nonprofits are owned by the state. They’re owned by the people and that, uh, my board is here to make sure that we do what we say we’re going to do in a fiscally and programmatically responsible way. And then they hire me to make sure that we implement those programs and policies, um, in a, in a fiscally and programmatically prudent way. Right. Um, and then I hire staff to do all that work. Right? So we’re all part of this larger system. Um, but we serve the people of this state. That’s why we’re nonprofit. That’s why we get a tax exemption.

Brad Caruso: Yup.

Barbara Heisler: That’s why we are able to ask for public support. And that’s why public support is so important for nonprofits. I mean, we do what we do for people with the help of people.

Brad Caruso: Yeah. That’s an easy way to look at it. I never, never heard it that way. But that is, that’s a really interesting way to look at it. Like we do what we do from people to help people. Yeah. And it’s true. It’s so true.

Barbara Heisler: We’re the conduit.

Brad Caruso: You are, you are the, the, the vehicle to help people.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah. We’re that punty pipe that people blow through to create great works of art, right?

Brad Caruso: Yeah. So educate. That’s what, what is the, what are the, what are the machines and mechanisms to do glasswork what’s involved? Do you have a kiln? Right? What are the tools that are used?

Barbara Heisler: So actually, we have four different shops?

Brad Caruso: Yup.

Barbara Heisler: And every shop works in a different way. So our, um, flame working shop, otherwise known as lamp working is, um, where glass is heated over a single flame, kind of like the Bunsen burner that you used in high school, except ours are 2000 or 3000 degrees depending on what kind of glass we’re using. So it’s an open flame and your manipulating glass on a small, um, we call it a mandrel, but I mean if you can imagine a thick piece of wire, right? And so if you’re making a bead on a mandrel, you’re wrapping the molten glass, the glass that’s kind of in a honey like form, um, around this mandrel. And when you take the mandrel out, that’s how you have the hole in your bead to make a necklace. Okay. The best way to think about it. Um, so, so in the flame working shop, we have glass, we have, um, torches, we have mandrels, we have uh, annealers. So when a piece, when a bead is done, if it’s a small bead, it can actually be put into some kind of, um, material that allows the glass to cool slowly. The glass, if it cools too quickly, it’ll crack. Right. So imagine you take it off the flame. It’s 2000 degrees. And how, how is it here? It’s 68 degrees, right? It’s a pretty big, uh, differential. So glass goes from 2000 to 68 too quickly.

Brad Caruso: Yeah. If anyone’s ever worked in a restaurant, you know that if you ever take, take a hot glass out of the dishwasher and put it in the ice container, it explodes.

Barbara Heisler: Exactly, and that’s why.

Brad Caruso: Yeah. Been there. Done that.

Barbara Heisler: There you go.

Brad Caruso: Yeah. Yeah. Good luck. You got to clean the ice tray too.

Barbara Heisler: That’s why you have to put the um, the, the spoon in the glass before you add hot water.

Brad Caruso: Oh, exactly. Yup, yup.

Barbara Heisler: So some kind of conduit for heat. So, um, so those are the tools that we use in the flame shop. The next shop is the flat shop and the flat shop is where we do fused glass and mosaic glass. Some mosaics really just cut glass organized on some kind of flat material, which could be a board or um, it could be a piece of slate or depends on what you’re doing with it. Um, but fused glass is cut glass that’s organized onto another piece of glass and then it’s put into a kiln and heated to about 2000 degrees. So this two thousand’s, kind of a magic number. And that’s the number where glass becomes liquid. Glass becomes molten, right? So actually a fused glass piece, you wouldn’t necessarily always go to 2000 degrees cause you don’t necessarily want it to liquid. You want it to just fuse or tack. So sometimes you, it’s a lower a lower heat just so that it creates the bond and sometimes it’s a little higher so that the pieces of glass that you’re laying onto the clear glass actually become one. Um, and so you work with all kinds of Clippers and, uh, cutters and you know, one thing is called an eyeball. And one thing, I don’t know, there’s great tools, great names for all the tools that you work with in the glass shops. But, um, we have some pretty great, uh, instructors in our hot shop, which is our glass blowing studio. So our glass blowing studio, guess what temperature our furnaces are?

Brad Caruso: 2000 degrees!

Barbara Heisler: 2000 degrees. That’s the heat at which glass stays molten, it stays and you’re able to manipulate it. So we have, uh, a furnace which holds, um, in this case, in our current space, we have one furnace that holds 400 pounds of glass. It’s in a crucible, a large ceramic bowl, if you will. And at that furnace is on 24/7. And the idea is to always keep that glass at 2000 degrees. Um, and when the bowl starts to, you know, have less glass in it, it has to get refilled, but that happens over an eight hour period. That’s called charging, where we re, uh, where we, uh, refill that crucible with little pieces of glass, little pellets of glass. Um, but it gets done in a, in a very systematic way so that there’s no not excess air and there’s no bubbles. And, and the glass is very smooth and even, which is one of the reasons that glassblowers like to work here because they like the way that we pay attention to our glass and, um, that we use a glass that’s not used in a lot of other glass blowing studios. We use a glass that we get from Sweden called glasma and we like it. Uh, one reason we use it is because it’s very, very clear. And the other reason we like it as it melts at a slightly lower temperature, so it saves us a little bit of money. Um, but uh, so in addition to the furnace we have, um, in our current studio we have two. But in our new studios we’ll have four glory holes. And I told you it’s a sexy shop. So we have glory holes are basically the warming ovens. So you, uh, an artist will take their pipe and go into the furnace and gather glass, big glob of glowing orange glass on the end of their pipe. And as soon as they take it out of the furnace, it starts to cool. So they’re able to manipulate it, but they have to manipulate it quickly. So they might blow, enter, you know, introduce some air or to expand, um, the glass or they might sculpt it, but it’ll quickly start to harden on the outside. So they’ll put the glass at the end of their pipe into the warming oven the glory hole, which is also at 2000 degrees.

Brad Caruso: Never would’ve guessed that. Yeah, we’re starting to get it.

Barbara Heisler: And so that keeps, is that part of the glass warm and, and malleable? Um, when a piece is finished, just like in the flame shop, it goes into annealer, which allows it to cool slowly over a period of time. So there’s lots of moving parts here, lots of people here.

Heather Campisi: Have you done glass blowing yourself?

Barbara Heisler: I have.

Heather Campisi: How was your first experience with that? Do you have any good stories about any of these, like trying?

Barbara Heisler: So I’ve worked in each one of our shops because in order to be able to talk about it to donors and to educators, so I feel like I need to have done it right. And by the way, we ask all of our board members to do that as well. Uh, so, you know, the first shop I worked in was the flame shop and I made a bead and my beads are a little lopsided, nowhere near as good as our teaching artists. Um, I’ve made a couple of things in the flat shop, uh, that I’m proud of. I made a, a dish that looks like the glass is woven, which is kind of an optical illusion, right? Um, but I love that piece. And actually our fundraiser last spring we asked each of our board members to make a bowl in our, uh, in our flat shop. And we had the, the GlassRoots bowl, which was a competition of who made the best bowl? Um, votes were $10 each and board members had to, you know, have pictures of their bowls and put them out on social media and got people to vote for their bowls.

Heather Campisi: What a fun, competitive, revenue driving experience.

Barbara Heisler: It was great. And then we had an event where we auctioned off the bowls.

Brad Caruso: And the gift keeps on giving.

Barbara Heisler: That’s really fun. I was really sad to say goodbye to my ball. I really liked it, but it has a nice new home now. Um, okay. And then, um, the, the last shop I worked in was the hot shop and I made a, the first thing I made in the hot shop was actually a pretty simple thing. Uh, it was a pumpkin. Oh. So I, you, you blow into a mold which gives the, you know, the stripes and the pumpkin. So the challenging piece of that for me was that I did it right after I broke my foot.

Brad Caruso: I remember that, I remember you having the boot on.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah. And so I’m, I’m not a very tall person. And so to blow into a mold, you actually have to get up high and hold your pipe street up and down so that the glass kind of drops into the mold and then you blow. So it expands. And so I had to actually get up onto a step stool so that I was tall enough to have the ability to blow down into the mold. But I literally had one foot to do it on. So.

Brad Caruso: with one being heavier than the other.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah, it was quite a challenge. But I have the well blown pumpkin at home to memory to memorialize that event. And then actually the second thing I made was not blown at all. It was sculpted. It was for Valentine’s day. We had, we call it had a class called hot, sculpted love. And I sculpted a heart, beautiful glass heart. And it’s kind of fun because it’s the inside of the glass red and then it’s coated by an outer coating of clear glass to encase the heart forever. That was really fun to do. And so here’s this novice glass person and I’ve been able to make something and every one of our studios, which means that anybody can, if I can, I think that means anyone can.

Brad Caruso: No, no, no, not all of us are as artistically inclined.

Barbara Heisler: I think you could do it.

Brad Caruso: Nah, We’d see. Yeah.

Barbara Heisler: And um, but it’s really fun because I was able to really see that not only did I have to challenge myself artistically, right. I have to think about colors and shapes and design. But you know, especially, you know, given the story about me blowing glass with a broken foot, you know, you understand that you can’t blow glass by yourself ever. Right. You always have to have somebody else with you and sometimes more than more than one person. Um, but you know, that cooperation, that collaboration, the communication, you know, being able to hear instructions, follow instructions, carry out instructions, um, being able to, you know, know when to do something or someone else. You know, I was amazed at, you know, the, the other folks I was in the shop with their ability to anticipate what was going to happen next. Um, it kind of gives having someone’s back a whole different meeting. Yeah. So, um, it was really fun to not only learn the technical aspects of glass blowing, but to really see what our students get. Um, those kinds of planning and um, you know, all of the skills, all of those 21st century skills that get pulled into the work here really great. Yeah.

Brad Caruso: Yeah. We need to do more when we need to have a team building event here. I think we need to, yeah.

Barbara Heisler: We do do that. We do corporate building.

Brad Caruso: We’d love to, there you go. Heather is going to go back and be like, I have a great idea.

Barbara Heisler: You know, imagine, in our shop if you’re planning out a mosaic together or refused the last piece together, there’s different roles that people have to take and, and how people adjust to those roles. How people take instruction or give instruction or um, or carry out as part of a team. That’s all very much related to everything we all do every day.

Heather Campisi: Personality management, while blowing glass.

Barbara Heisler: But I guess it’s important to know that we’re not only do we serve the young people and you know, youth and young adults in Newark, but we’re open to the public. We have public classes, we have classes that you can take in the evenings and weekends. And once we’re in our new space, we’ll have actually even more of those. One of the most exciting things in our new spaces that are worker space, which will be an open space, unscheduled studios, time for people who have done any class in our studios will be able to access the worker space and um, come and make, do, do, making not necessarily enough the formality of a class. Um, so that’s really exciting. Uh, the classes we offer for young people in Newark are all sliding fee scale and everyone pays something, but no one is ever turned away because of an inability to pay. So that’s why we fund raise. So we always appreciate, um, individual gifts, foundation gifts, corporate gifts, partnerships, whatever ways people want to support us. Um, our website always announces what’s going on.

Heather Campisi: So what is your website? If I wanted to find you, for our listeners.

Brad Caruso: Yeah, let’s say I didn’t know who you were and I wanted to donate to you or I wanted to learn more about you, where do I go? What do I do?

Barbara Heisler: Just go right to that donate button at So it’s glass, as in the vehicle that we use, roots, as in coming home to do what’s important. So GlassRoots dot org.

Brad Caruso: Nice. Yup. I was looking at it too on the one that trained in, I, uh, I see there, it’s easy you can do on Eric from your phone. It’s easy. Nice. Mobile friendly. I liked it.

Barbara Heisler: Oh yeah, we changed it over a couple of years ago in order to do that.

Brad Caruso: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a logistical challenge. Yeah. Just like websites in itself. I think every, every nonprofit in the world we go to now has redeveloped their website in the last like three years just cause they had to and better technology and.

Barbara Heisler: Yeah. Well, so I mean, not only in technology, but you know, when I started looking at our website, I realized that, you know, transparency is really important to us. So, you know, you’ll find links to our financials, for example, the good work that you do for GlassRootsin terms of making sure that we’re, you know, living up to the requirements of the state and in reporting our funds appropriately. Um, we’ve had the link to our, uh, to a place where all of our 990s and, uh, audits are, are available. So if people are thinking about making a serious investment to GlassRoots, they, they can see that, you know, we do what we’re supposed to do.

Brad Caruso: Yes. Fully transparent and, you know, not hiding anything. Everything’s in the public. It’s important.

Barbara Heisler: And, you know, I was talking to Brad and saying I probably shouldn’t say this to you because you’re our auditor, but Hey, this is what’s happening going on. We’re very transparent here. So we, you know, use our, we use our website as a vehicle for that to make sure that people know who we are, what we do, what our goals are. You know, we have an agenda, but we’ll tell you what it is and, and we’ll tell you how we do it. And so that’s all on our website. And we invite people to look at that and to examine us. And we put up our annual evaluation reports, which talk about how we think we’re doing in our programmatic areas. Um, so we invite people to get to know us and in our new space. So in 2020 we’ll have, uh, galleries, great glass art shows. We’ll have a full glass, um, gift shop. Wonderful. So right now most of our gifts you have to purchase online. We have a very small gift shop and you really can’t come in. While we have students here. It’s a way we protect students. We don’t have kind of stray adults come in when we have young people in our shops. But in our new space we’ll have a separate space for our shop. Um, we’ll have an event space. So our colleagues that run nonprofits willhave a space that they can have their galas, but they’ll have a meeting space that organizations can rent. Um, and we’ll have industry. We’re bringing industry back to glass to, to Newark. We have, uh, our, uh, scientific glass workshop. We’ll be making scientific glass for some of our local universities and other corporations that use that work. Yeah. It’s another form of uh, income and training on the job training for our students. Um, so 2020 is going to be a big year for us. We want people to watch us to be there with us. To come on the adventure with us.

Brad Caruso: I’m sure you’re going to have a wonderful grand opening at it, that it’s going to be a fun time. So you’re, you’re almost, you’re, you’re almost there. So from your, from your campaign, obviously there’s a lot of work that goes into that. Obviously there’s a lot of challenges you face. Obviously there’s a lot of hoops you gotta jump through just to be able to walk in that door. What would you find from your perspective, was the biggest lesson learned from going through a campaign like that?

Barbara Heisler: Everything takes longer than you think it will.

Brad Caruso: Please explain.

Barbara Heisler: Well, we thought we’d be in our new space already. We’re about a year behind our projected date. Um, people make pledges with the best of intentions to fulfill them a certain times, but sometimes fulfillment takes longer than you think. Um,

Brad Caruso: I’m smiling cause I know what that means. There’s always, there’s always hoops. The best kind of gift is one that comes with a check.

Barbara Heisler: I like, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just want to get there. Yeah.

Brad Caruso: But there’s a lot that’s out of good intention, right. You know, you know what, you’re going to be doing once you do that and, and so obviously you’re eager, you know, it’s not the same patience. It’s more eagerness. Right. It’s more I want to see, I want to get there. It’s just, yeah, it takes a lot.

Barbara Heisler: See, that’s my line when I do interviews with people. Yeah. When people say, what’s your, what’s your weakness? Right? That’s my line. My line is I’m impatient, right. Cause I want to get job done.

Brad Caruso: That’s, you know, that’s a great one. Right? So I’m, you know, I hope someone takes that away and uses that.

Brad Caruso: A warriors. Thanks for tuning in. On the next episode of Civic Warriors we’ll talk with Kevin, Brian and Bill from the Night Stalker Foundation about serving those who serve. Make sure to subscribe to Civic Warriors and thanks for all your support. Have a great day.