Meet Our Staff
COVID-19 Update 1/15/2021: Please note the ArtWorks office is closed to visitors and our staff is working remotely. If you need to come to our office, please call at 513.333.0388.
Our Leadership Team
Chief Executive Officer & Artistic Director
Colleen Houston’s mission in life is to help people discover their creative genius and connect with their communities through art. She believes that “everyone who has ever been a child is an artist”—and that by tapping into our creative energy, we can deepen empathy, strengthen social bonds, tackle tough issues, and unleash the potential of individuals and communities alike.
She was 18 years old when she joined ArtWorks as a Youth Apprentice. Her first project was turning a chair someone had tossed out in the trash into a work of art someone would buy. (The person who bought that chair still has it!) She returned to ArtWorks a few years later, after earning a degree in Public and Social Art at Warren Wilson College, to become both a Teaching Artist and Lead Artist. Since then, as Chief Programming Officer, she’s helped launch ArtWorks award-winning mural program producing 200 public murals in 37 Cincinnati neighborhoods and seven nearby cities. The murals were instrumental in Cincinnati’s win for the 2010 City Livability Award by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (VIDEO). Colleen has also mentored Waco, Texas, and other cities on creating civic mural programs. She was appointed ArtWorks’ Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director in April 2020.
Colleen pioneers programs that empower artists and youth to use art as a source of healing. ArtWorks’ Hero Design Company artists design and sew Hero Capes to help children facing crisis find the superhero in themselves. The capes are presented to children at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ronald McDonald House and other partners in confidence-building ceremonies.
Colleen has also focused on elevating artist support. She launched ArtWorks initiatives—such as SpringBoard, CO.STARTERS and Big Pitch—to support the growth and development of creative entrepreneurs and small creative businesses. She served on the planning team for BLINK®, the largest light, art and culture event of its kind in the nation, providing extraordinary opportunities for local artists. In 2019, she helped produce the Cincinnati Artist Report, surveying more than 800 local artists to identify which resources artists need most to thrive.
Colleen serves on the Boards of Mini Microcinema, a nonprofit that provides free screenings of experimental film and media for all ages, and Wave Pool, an arts center in Camp Washington that catalyzes community-driven and artist-led projects for social impact. She is the 2020 Distinguished Alumni honoree for Warren Wilson College. She has received a Legacy Next Generation Leader Award and has been honored as a Cincinnati Business Courier C-Suite honoree. Colleen is a graduate of Nonprofit Leadership Institute of Greater Cincinnati’s EXCEL and Leadership Council for Nonprofits’ BOLD, (Board Orientation + Leadership Development) programs. She is a member of Leadership Cincinnati Class 44.
Colleen and her husband, Andy, an elementary art teacher, are the parents of two wonderfully creative girls. She has a deep passion for children’s art and loves engaging her own children in arts projects, volunteering for their schools by leading youth-designed costumes for the kindergarten school play, completing a service week school-wide mural, and publishing a school cookbook featuring art by children throughout the school. She loves to enjoy the beauty of the world through camping, canoeing and hiking and pushes her own creative practice of photography with occasional painting, sewing and quilting.
Senior Director, Communications and Marketing
As Senior Director of Communications and Marketing, Melissa Currence leads the strategy and execution of innovative marketing and communications plans that advance ArtWorks’ mission to transform people and places through investments in creativity. As a life-long Cincinnatian, she loves seeing the region be transformed through public art. Before joining the team, Currence was the senior digital marketing manager for the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the public relations specialist for Talbert House. She is immediate past president of the Cincinnatus Association and serves on the board of directors for the League of Women Voters of the United States. Currence has an accreditation in public relations and is a certificated Salesforce administrator. She was named to the Cincinnati Business Courier’s 2015 Forty Under 40 class. Currence earned a bachelor’s of Political Science from Xavier University and a master’s of Journalism and Communication from the Ohio State University.
Senior Director, Impact
As Senior Director of Impact, Sydney leads the strategic direction, management, and evaluation of ArtWorks’ programming and project impact. Sydney has dedicated her career to improving opportunities and outcomes for youth and communities. Prior to joining ArtWorks, Sydney was a Teach for America corps member in Milwaukee, WI. Her experience in the classroom led her to Future 5, a youth development nonprofit organization in Stamford, CT, where she led fundraising as Development Manager. A life-long learner of dance, music, and photography, it was a natural fit for Sydney to join the ArtWorks team to combine her passions for meaningful educational opportunities and the arts. Sydney received her BA from the University of Michigan, where she double-majored in Anthropology and Film, Television, & Media and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Additionally, Sydney earned her MA in Education at Alverno College during her service with Teach for America. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys hiking, ballroom dancing, and listening to the Bluegrass All-Stars at The Comet.
As Director of Finance, Jane is responsible for ArtWorks financial planning and reporting and oversees Human Resources for employee relations, policies, programs and practices. She is the past President/CEO for the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative (CYC). Prior to CYC, Jane’s career included senior leadership roles in manufacturing and financial services. Jane’s community work is extensive including leadership roles with the Nonprofit Leadership Council Board, Leadership Cincinnati, the Governor’s Community Connector Advisory Board, Cincinnati Public Schools My Tomorrow Steering Committee and United Way Board. She is a graduate of Leadership Cincinnati and Leadership Action. Jane holds a Master of Public Administration from Northern Kentucky University, a Bachelor of Accounting from University of Cincinnati and is a CPA. Jane shares her life with Bob and Diamond, their dog. Jane enjoys traveling, gardening, cooking and reading just about anything.
Director, Community Impact
In her role as Director of Community Impact, Linnea Gartin is responsible for ArtWorks’ efforts that rely heavily on community outreach and participation, often working with residents to bring their public art vision to life. She brings expertise in placemaking and placekeeping, community engagement, as well as public art planning, management and consulting. Have a project idea? Linnea is the first stop for ArtWorks’ new project inquiries. Beyond her role at ArtWorks, Linnea teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and maintains her own personal multidisciplinary art practice. Linnea holds a Master of Social Practice Art degree from University of Indianapolis and a Bachelor of Art History degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Manager, Creative Projects
As Creative Projects Manager, Devin is responsible for the day-to-day operations of public art projects, working directly with external partners, artists and youth apprentices to execute projects successfully. In this role, he coordinates, supports and troubleshoots for designers, artists, and youth apprentices from design concept to project dedication. He is passionate about showcasing the creative talents of artists and youth while providing apprentices with positive growth experiences. Devin has worked within the nonprofit sector since 2010, serving as an intern with Building New Hope in Nicaragua. After receiving a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design, he decided to pursue his dual passion for arts and community nonprofits, obtaining an MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University. Before returning to Cincinnati, Devin interned at a variety of arts organizations and was Gallery Director at the Vashon Center for the Arts, in Vashon, Washington. Growing up in Kenwood, Devin is glad to be back in Cincinnati and excited to be part of the ArtWorks’ Team.
Director, Creative Projects
As the Director of Creative Projects, Liz is responsible for the planning and execution of all projects that employ artists to carry out ArtWorks’ mission through creative and innovative processes and outcomes. Her extensive experience with project management paired with her expertise and knowledge of call-to-artists and artist-driven projects contributes to her success in this role. Since joining the ArtWorks team in 2017, Liz has enjoyed working closely with artists to develop their ideas and push creative boundaries in an effort to bring bold, fresh artistic concepts to Cincinnati’s public art landscape. Some of Liz’s ArtWorks highlights include the management of BLINK® Light-Based Sculptural Installations (2019), Saya Woolfalk’s Visionary Reality Threshold mural (2019), Chase Melendez’s 8C4I5N1 neon mural (2019), and New Lines Phase II: Bolivar Alley (2018). As a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Liz’s educational background is in creative writing, English literature, art education, and fine art. As an artist, Liz is a proud member of the local feminist collective, ART HAGS.
As the Development Manager, Liz Neidich manages the acknowledgement and stewardship of all ArtWorks donors and is the key database administrator. She also oversees all mural tour operations as well as the recruitment and engagement of all ArtWorks volunteers. Before joining the ArtWorks team, Liz served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the CityLink Center in the West End and as the Development Assistant at Santa Maria Community Services in Price Hill. Liz graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in creative writing and communications and a certificate in journalism. As a self-proclaimed coffee and beer fanatic, Liz enjoys traveling and visiting local breweries and coffee shops with her husband, Steve, and their dog, Gatsby.
Manager, Communications and Marketing
As the Communications and Marketing Manager, Sandra Okot-Kotber slays all digital communications for ArtWorks including but not limited to, newsletters, social media, and press releases. She is the organization’s past executive assistant and office manager. Prior to arriving at ArtWorks, Sandra worked on administrative teams for Macy’s and the University of Central Florida in Orlando. In her free time, Sandra is a writer and Communications Director for Women of Cincy, a nonprofit media platform. In 2015, Sandra graduated with a bachelor’s of Human Communication from the University of Central Florida. She is married to the grind and mother to a loving canine named, Foxxy.
As the Manager of Finance, Francesca processes all day-to-day financial data. She is also responsible for maintaining personnel records, employee benefits and payroll. She has been in the Cincinnati area since 1997 and joined the ArtWorks team in April 2011. Francesca enjoys floral arranging and spending time with her family and friends.
Director, Artist Impact
Amy joined the ArtWorks team in 2014 as the Executive Assistant and Office Manager. In 2018 she transitioned to working with our Youth Apprentices and Professional Artists. Amy oversees youth programming including enrichment, education, and hiring. Prior to joining the ArtWorks team, Amy worked in the Admissions Department of the Art Academy of Cincinnati as the Lead Admissions Counselor and High School Visit Coordinator. Amy also attended the Art Academy of Cincinnati earning a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Sculpture, in 2010. She is also a graduate of ArtWorks Co.Starters program where Pull Club Studio, a girl-powered printmaking studio was born. Amy is passionate about public art, place keeping, and engaging young, emerging and student artists.
Executive Assistant & Office Manager
As the Executive Assistant & Office Manager for the ArtWorks team, Maddie spends her time answering the main ArtWorks phone, welcoming people to the office, and organizing meetings. She is often helping order supplies for different projects and lending a hand where she is needed. Before ArtWorks, Maddie received her Bachelor of Communication with a minor in Theatre Arts from Eastern Michigan University where she participated on campus in Housing and Residence Life. Recently, she has worked closely with the YWCA and the Allied Construction group through their summer camp programs. Growing up in Norwood, she has always admired the beautiful art around the city and is ecstatic to join the team working to foster community through these projects. In her free time she likes to bake, assist in her local theatre productions, and watch movies.