Meet the Team
COVID-19 Update 3/23/2020: Please note the ArtWorks office is closed but our staff is working remotely. Please reach out to us.
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 nearly 200 public murals in 36 Cincinnati neighborhoods and seven nearby cities. She was appointed ArtWorks’ Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director in April 2020.
In addition to murals, Colleen has also pioneered programs that empower artists and youth to use art as a source of healing. ArtWorks’ Hero Design Company artists, for example, 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 has received a Legacy Next Generation Leader Award, has been a Cincinnati Business Courier C-Suite honoree, and is a graduate of EXCEL, a leadership development program of the Nonprofit Leadership Institute of Greater Cincinnati.
She 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 of Programming
Marie has been on the ArtWorks team since May 2011. Starting off as the Development and Marketing Intern, Marie has traded hats and roles in multiple departments, coordinating events and sponsorships for Development, serving in Administration & Office Management, managing Programming projects like the Big Pig Gig: Do Re Wee, overseeing ArtWorks ArtRx department, and serving on the 2017 BLINK leadership team. In her current role as Managing Director of Programs, Marie blends her cross-departmental knowledge and expertise to lead the Programs department, overseeing project development and implementation. Marie graduated from Ohio Wesleyan with a BFA in Painting and a BA in Psychology, and lives in Cincinnati with her husband, son, cats, dog, snakes, and frogs.
Director of Programs
Linnea joined the ArtWorks team in December 2014. Prior to ArtWorks, Linnea was living in the upper Midwest to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She was also employed by the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota working in the Collections, Curatorial, and Visitor Services departments. In August 2018, Linnea received her Master’s degree in Social Practice Art at the University of Indianapolis. Her passion for the arts manifests in many different ways through photography, curating, podcasting, collecting, and collaborating. Her personal work can be found at linneagartin.com. Linnea resides in Mt. Washington with her husband, dog, and two cats.
Devin loves contributing to the ArtWorks community as program manager. Devin grew up in Kenwood and moved to the East Coast to get his BFA in painting at Rhode Island School of Design. He decided to pursue his dual passion for arts and community/non-profit work by moving to the West Coast to obtain an MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University. There he interned at a variety of arts organizations including Pilchuck and SEEDARTS and managed the Vachon-Kinsey Gallery. After grad school, he moved to Vashon Island to be the Gallery Director for the Vashon Center for the Arts-Koch Gallery. On Vashon, he continued his studio practice while running the first Friday studio tours.
Devin’s love of travel has led to him living all over, but he is excited to move back and put down roots in his hometown after living on the West Coast for the past 8 years. He now lives in OTR with his dog Loquita, who he adopted while working in Nicaragua for Building New Hope. Devin enjoys exploring new places, camping, hiking, kayaking and spending time with family and friends.
Liz Miller was born and raised on the east side of Cincinnati in Anderson Township. With the exception of a short seven-month stint in Charleston, South Carolina, she has lived in Cincinnati her whole life and is a Cincinnati girl through and through. While completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati, Liz was also a member of the U.C. Women’s Soccer team from 2009 until her senior season in 2012. Shortly after graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Liz returned to U.C. to pursue a Master’s Degree in Art Education, as well as an undergraduate minor in Fine Arts and a K-12 Ohio teaching license in visual arts. During graduate school, Liz had the opportunity to intern with another local arts organization, Elementz, as a visual art instructor, and it was during this time that she developed her passion for public art and community engagement. Before Liz joined the ArtWorks team in the Spring of 2017, she participated in the 2015 ArtWorks “Ink Your Love” tattoo project and can often be spotted proudly displaying the “Corn-fed pig town” tattoo on her forearm. Liz currently resides in the neighborhood of Clifton and spends her time outside of ArtWorks coaching 9-year old girls at a local soccer club, gardening, and seeing live music.
Senior Director of Development
Daniel lives and works in OTR. As the ArtWorks Development Director, Daniel is responsible for the organization’s fundraising efforts. He is excited to work with Cincinnati youth and introduce them to meaningful opportunities in the arts. When not at the office, he likes to hang out with his best friend – a hound dog named Brady who lives in the apartment downstairs.
Liz was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. Growing up, she was very involved in the musical arts, primarily playing trumpet and piano. In 2010, she had the opportunity to travel to Spain and Portugal to perform with the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony. Liz moved to Cincinnati in the fall of 2010 to attend the University of Cincinnati, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in creative writing and communications and a minor in journalism. During her time in college, Liz was also a member of the UC Bearcat Bands. After a short stint in insurance jobs, Liz began her nonprofit career in 2017, serving for one year as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member at CityLink Center in Cincinnati then working as the Development Assistant for Santa Maria Community Services in Price Hill. She joined the ArtWorks team as Development Manager in December of 2019. Outside of ArtWorks, Liz leads the coffee and wedding coordination teams at her church. She also enjoys concerts, traveling, hiking, and visiting local breweries, restaurants, and coffee shops with her husband and dog.
Lisa Beshara Saia
Lisa is an accomplished senior level marketing and advertising executive with experience driving the success of multi-million dollar brands and businesses. Leader of Award Winning Teams, National and Regional Addy Awards. Between 2015 – 2017, Lisa served as Director of Development for ArtWorks and took a short leave to spend time with her first born, George. She has recently rejoined ArtWorks as a Development and Strategy part-time consultant and event planner. Specifically, she has planned the ArtWorks Annual Breakfasts in 2015-2017 and the 2016 and 2019 Secrets Fall Fundraiser – recently nominated as best Arts and Culture fundraiser by Movers and Makers magazine and in 2016, City Beat’s best fundraiser.
Prior to ArtWorks, Lisa led global and national brands as Vice President of Client Partnerships for a WPP global digital agency in the USA and United Kingdom. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Lisa also attended the Colegio de Espana and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Spanish Studies. Lisa is proficient in both the Spanish & Arabic languages. For fun, Lisa is an avid Orange Theory member, is food-obsessed, and loves spending time with George, her two English Bullies, Zeus and Charlotte and her husband, Lenny.
Senior Director of Communications
Melissa Currence APR joined ArtWorks in August 2018 as Managing Director of Communications and Marketing. As a life-long Cincinnatian, she loves seeing the region transform from the energy of 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. She earned a bachelor’s of Political Science from Xavier University and a master’s of Journalism and Communication from the Ohio State University.
Sandra Okot-Kotber is a communication professional who joined the ArtWorks family in April of 2018. Prior to arriving at ArtWorks, she worked on administrative teams for Macy’s and the University of Central Florida in Orlando. In her free time, Sandra is a writer and Director of Volunteer Culture for Women of Cincy, an organization which exists to build inclusive communities through uplifting changemakers. In 2015, Sandra graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida. She is married to the grind and mother to a loving canine named, Foxxy.
Kelly Croop has a long history with ArtWorks first as a three-time mural Apprentice, then as a part of the Development team while running the Mural tour program, and now as the in-house designer. She is passionate about sharing ArtWorks amazing story through branding and design while highlighting the creative youth in our city. When she is not working, she is exploring the food and brewery scene in Cincinnati or traveling the world to see old architecture and hike incredible mountains.
Director of Finance
Jane 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.
Business Operations Manager
Francesca joined the ArtWorks team in April 2011. As the Manager of Finance, she oversees the financial integrity of Artworks. This includes all financial reporting and maintenance. Francesca is also responsible for maintaining personnel records and payroll. She has been in the Cincinnati area since 1997 and is also involved with local theater programs. Francesca enjoys event/wedding planning, floral arranging and spending time with her family.
Executive Assistant & Office Manager
Maddie started as the Executive Assistant & Office Manager for the ArtWorks team in February 2020. Being a Cincinnati native, she grew up admiring the beautiful art around the city and is ecstatic to join the team behind a lot of these projects! 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. In her free time she likes to bake, assist in her local theater productions, and watch movies.
Senior Director of Workforce Development
As Managing Director of Workforce Development, Sydney oversees the strategic direction and management of professional development initiatives, enrichment, and education for both youth and creative professionals. An East Coast transplant with a Midwestern heart, 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 then led her to Future 5, a youth development nonprofit organization in Stamford, CT, where she led fundraising strategy as Development Manager. Growing up, Sydney danced, played multiple instruments, and pursued photography, so it was a natural fit 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 Screen Arts & Cultures and Anthropology 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 exploring restaurants in Over-the-Rhine.
Director of Workforce Development
Amy joined the ArtWorks team in 2014 as the Executive Assistant and Office Manager. In 2018 she transitioned to the Workforce Development department as the Director of Youth. 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.