Charlotte’s first creative reuse center expands

CHARLOTTE — When you walk into Upcycle Arts, founder Angela Kollmer hopes you can always find something new.

“Fabric’s probably our number one donation,” she said. “We got World War II rations once, a postcard from the 1910s. Vintage maps are always really interesting.”

The store is what’s known as a creative reuse center, a nonprofit that takes in donated art supplies or really anything crafters might want to reuse or transform. Kollmer said that means they always have a mix of traditional supplies like paint, canvas and yarn on hand as well as the nontraditional. It’s all resold well below retail value.

“We got 54 pounds of whistles donated,” she said. “We’re asking you to think outside the box and see what you can make with it.”

Kollmer said it’s also a matter of conservation. Most of the material Upcycle Arts sells would have ended up in area landfills, but following in the footsteps of other creative reuse centers across the country, Kollmer thought Charlotte’s art scene could find ways to put the material to better use.

“I think artists and creatives kind of inherently upcycle,” she said.

She started Upcycle Arts about three years ago, after visiting other reuse centers across the Carolinas and realizing there was nothing in Charlotte that served that niche.

“There was literally a creative reuse center literally two hours in every cardinal direction from Charlotte, but we didn’t have one here yet,” she said.

It began as a series of popups events for artist and crafting groups. Then Kollmer said it grew quickly as donations poured in. The storefront operated out of a 170 square-foot space in the VAPA Center.

Most of the donations are from individual crafters and artists. But Kollmer said as the business has grown, they’ve also gotten large donations from retailers and manufacturers. By 2024, it was clear they needed a bigger, more permanent space.

“We had to turn a lot away just because of the quantity,” she said.

This spring, Upcycle Arts moved into their new location in the Eastway Crossing Shopping Center with about 8,000 pounds of materials. Kollmer said they’ve been selling more and receiving more donations than ever.

“I think last month we did a little under 3,000 pounds, and more and more people are finding us,” she said.

As the center grows, Kollmer said Upcycle Arts plans to host more crafting events and meetups to try and inspire more artists to find creative ways to upcycle.

“I think it makes sense to use what we have here and make it better,” she said.

(WATCH BELOW: Springclean keeps clothing, textiles out of trash while giving back)

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.

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