The Localista's Medley of Art

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One of the highlights of the week for The Localista is being able to sit down with the owner of a local and independent business and listen to their story.  I get to hear about where they came from, what twists and turns their life took on their journey to opening their shop, restaurant, gallery, etc. and it’s an awesome experience.  I’m blessed because it’s rare that in everyday life you get to learn so much about a person in such a short amount of time.  I had met Saori, the owner of Olio Gallery, earlier this year; however, it wasn’t until last week that I got to hear her tale and what a tale it is!
Saori, was born in Okinawa, where more than half her family still lives.  She actually has two names -- Cheryl Murphy is the name her Irish father gave her and because none of her family could pronounce “Cheryl,” her mother named her “Saori” after a then-famous singer.  Saori grew up in Pinellas County and was a trumpet player throughout her school years, travelling around the country with Drum Corps International.  She had also drawn since she was five years old and wanted to get to art school, but didn’t have the money.  She thought that by joining the military she might be able to save some, so off she went to Colorado, where she drove a five-ton tractor trailer for the 4th Infantry Division.  She had a stint with the Department of the Navy and came back to Tampa to work for the Department of Justice in the Attorney General’s office.  Talk about some interesting twists and turns, huh?
All along she still wanted to get to art school.  When her parents passed away in 2003 Saori asked for a sign.  She says she received three different ones and so she sold her house, resigned from her steady job and took her dog to her best friend’s place.  For the next four years she studied at the Ringling College of Art and Design.  
After graduation she volunteered for The Studio@620 Annex in the Crislip Arcade of the 600 Block and was also working for Bill Correira (aka Woo).  When the Arcade went through a transition earlier this year Woo suggested she dive in, asking her, “What have you got to lose?”  So, she did.  She opened in April on Gallery Walk night, but Saori struggled with the retail aspect of running the gallery and thought she might not renew her lease next year.  However, if she was going out, she wanted to go out with a bang. 

After asking herself where she belonged and what she had to say Saori decided she would follow her own path and began collaborating on an installation piece that would debut during the November Gallery Walk night.  I was incredibly moved when I first saw the piece, “Solstice,” and I would highly recommend that you see it before it gets taken down in early January (Saori’s artist statement can be found below).  It has received rave reviews and Saori has even been asked to collaborate on a project that is turning a 1920s YWCA, which faces Lake Erie, into a nature center.  
“Olio” means miscellaneous mixture or medley and Saori has managed to harmonize different elements in her gallery.  She sells her “Shorty Pickles” dolls there, as well as mixed media paintings.  She also sells her aunt’s origami sculptures.  Saori has become her aunt’s caretaker and 10% of the sculpture’s sale proceeds go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  
The installation has definitely given Saori a new lease on life and she has been inspired to pursue other projects.  I’m beyond grateful to the “Solstice” muse because it looks like this amazing artist/local business owner is sticking around.  Your support would mean she gets to do so for a long time and that makes our ‘Burg that much more wonderful!      
The Localista always asks business owners what was their favorite book as a child.  Saori’s was The Giving Tree (which is one of my all-time favorites).

Olio Gallery  is located at 645 Central Avenue #12.  Due to Saori’s current caretaker status, please ring to confirm opening hours. 
Saori contributed to the Morean Art Center’s Upcycled show that opened this weekend and runs through January 20th.  She will also be one of the featured vendors at NOVA 535’s Naughty Noel Holiday Party Holiday Bazaar this Thursday, December 8th 
Artist Statement
“We are bombarded with technology, suffering, and destruction every day.  So much so that we become out of touch with nature and self.  I wanted the space to provide a sense of peace and spiritual relief from the outside world, so through sight, sound, and smell, the viewer can be transported into a whimsical eco-conscious world.  A world made of recycled materials that are discarded in mass quantity everyday:  water bottles, dryer lint, trees, Styrofoam, etc.  I wanted to create this world to remind ourselves that not only can we be transformed in this life, but also can our world by the simple means of reduce, reuse, and recycle.  A world that can provide over and over again when loved as one of our own.”
Olio Gallery

*** WINNER 2011 Best of the Bay for Best Local Blogger ***
“The Localista,” aka Olga Bof, plans to open her own local and independent business, Cheeky Monkeys Books & Toys, in Downtown St. Pete ( for updates). 

Photography provided by Featured Artist of the Burg (FAB) Sheri Kendrick of Enchanted Forest Photography(

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