ArtWorks News

A Season of Simple Gifts

Our new mural, Together We Win, by Brandon Hawkins, at St. Francis de Sales School, 1600 Madison Road. Photo by J. Miles Wolf.

Dear Friends,

As this unique year comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the simple gifts present in my life and in my work.

What I’m most grateful for is we were able to keep our staff, youth apprentices and volunteers safe during the pandemic. We were able to do that with a mix of working from home and from various site locations.

I’m also grateful for the impact we’ve made this year. Despite all odds, we have maintained all staffing throughout the year and exceeded our job creation goals, employing 123 youth and 68 professional artists with amazing jobs in the arts. Their dedication has transformed our community with creativity in so many ways.

2020 has been a remarkable year with some notable accomplishments for ArtWorks, including painting our 200th permanent outdoor mural, and for the first time both intentionally hiring returning citizens and offering remote arts-based work-from-home-projects. With Wave Pool and The Well, we were motivated to offer Camp cARTwheel, serving more than 400 children, ages 6-12, through summer and after school arts programming by partnering with more than 40 arts partners and artists. ArtWorks’ Hero Design Company worked for our community heroes, sewing 1,000 masks for SORTA’s Metro bus drivers, Cincinnati Recreation Commission workers and La Soupe and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati volunteers, and creating over 50 custom hero flags for exceptional individuals who were nominated by their community.

Despite the financial challenges of this year, you surprised us and stepped up your support in ways we’ve never seen before. Your support of our Apprentice Promise campaign, which included a matching gift by our board vice president, Lauren Hannan Shafer, made our summer program possible. I want to also thank our board member John Korn for championing our mural program this summer with an incredible gift. I commend ArtsWave and Hamilton County, whose leaders prioritized CARES funding for the arts throughout our county, recognizing the critical losses that this sector faced.

I loved reading the handwritten notes with small personal gifts from individuals across our community who encouraged ArtWorks to keep up the good work. This type of encouragement and support from the community we serve is deeply gratifying. We saw this from neighbors enjoying our new Electric Avenue mural along Wasson Way.

We also built new partnerships this year, including with H&R Block and Next Door for a new back-to-school mural on the street in front of Frederick Douglass School. And we are deeply grateful to longstanding partners who stayed by our side, such as Procter and Gamble, the 2020 mural program sponsor. Thanks to this inspiring community, ArtWorks was able to lean into our mission and create critical jobs and important uplifting works of art across many neighborhoods including Avondale, Lincoln Heights and Walnut Hills.

ArtWorks has an incredible mission of transforming people and places through investments in creativity. I know this mission is important, because it’s clear you believe in us. I invite you to support ArtWorks this holiday season to continue this work into 2021 and beyond.

As the year comes to a close, I’d like to share a song that is moving to hear this time of year. Simple Gifts, a Shaker dancing song, which became popular in thanks to Aaron’s Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. Here is a beautiful version performed by the Detroit Civic Youth Symphony.

My hope is you find yourself surrounded by simple gifts this holiday season, and I especially wish good health for you and your loved ones.

Best wishes,
Colleen Houston, ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Diretor
Colleen Houston
ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Director

This column first appeared in ArtWorks’ e-newsletter. View this edition. Not yet signed up to receive our emails? Sign up here.

Read More in our December Newsletter

About ArtWorks

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization provides youth, ages 14-21 with the majority from underserved households, with competitive 21st century career readiness skills through mentorship by professional artists. Since 1996, ArtWorks has employed more than 3,750 youth and 3,300 creative professionals, and the organization has completed more than 12,500 public and private art projects that includes 200 permanent outdoor murals, contributing to the region’s global reputation as an arts destination.