ArtWorks News

Activating the Youth Vote

ArtWorks’ Hear Me Out 2019’s design team at work at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
Photo by Bergette Photography.

Dear Friends—

Soon the November elections will be here. At ArtWorks, we’re working to activate the vote among youth and our entire community.

I have been working to instill the importance of voting in my two daughters by bringing them to the polls since they were born, and I’m proud voting is something our entire family does together. This year I’m talking to them about voting as I send in my mail-in ballot.

I first became interested in politics in high school, during a government studies class where every student had the opportunity to volunteer for a political campaign. I volunteered for a female city council candidate, and she won and became mayor! And this candidate, Roxanne Qualls, was one of the important founders of ArtWorks. So I know first-hand that experiences for youth to get involved in politics and exercise their right to vote matter more than ever.

While young people may be the demographic least likely to vote, they hold a lot of potential political power. As researchers at Tuft University explain, “When more—and more diverse—young people are politically engaged earlier in life, they are more likely to remain engaged in the future and to be part of an electorate that is more representative of the country, which should be a key goal of our democracy.”

In Ohio, less than 22% of 18-19 year olds voted in the midterm elections. At ArtWorks, we set out to make a difference among youth to change this, because we believe youth have great potential to get engaged. Our country has a shameful history of restricting voting rights. Because states make their own laws regarding voting, there is a lot of confusion. For example, those who have felony convictions are allowed to vote in Ohio once they return home. But there are states where this isn’t the case.

This year when our country is commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment that gave some women the right to vote, we set out to do all we can to make sure that everyone’s vote counts.

ArtWorks employed 15 Youth Apprentices over two years to design, write and activate Hear Me Out: A Youth-Driven Field Guide to Voting with mentorship from Reverb Art + Design. Right now, Youth Apprentices are distributing these guides, registering voters, and inspiring young people to get involved this year by identifying important topics that inspire young people to action.

Be sure to visit our Hear Me Out Youth Apprentices at this weekend’s Art Climb at the Cincinnati Art Museum. ArtWorks is a proud partner on this project with ArtsWave’s POWER OF HER, an initiative that salutes women and honors female leadership and legacy in the arts as well as women of the future.

So before voter registration closes in Ohio on October 5, please check your voter registration, register to vote or update your name or address to ensure you can vote for Tuesday, Nov. 3 election.

Make sure to create your plan for voting. Your options in Ohio are early voting, vote by mail or vote in person at your local polling location. If you have questions about voting or want to get more involved this year, please check out our partners, the Greater Cincinnati Voter Coalition at and the League of Women Voters at

I’m excited to invite you to a conversation with artists who are passionate about getting out the vote, including the Youth Apprentices powering Hear Me Out. Join us Thursday, Oct. 15 at 5:30 for ArtWorks’ new series called Viva Voce: Creative conversations with Artists and ArtWorks’ Alumni. Joining also are artists from the national artist collective, For Freedoms, and local artist collective, Public Service Artists. Find out more about this amazing new series below.

Be well,

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 October Newsletter

About ArtWorks

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization creates jobs for youth, ages 14-21 with the majority from underserved households, providing competitive 21st-century career-readiness skills through mentorship by professional artists. Since 1996, ArtWorks has employed more than 3,600 youth and 3,200 creative professionals, and the organization has completed more than 12,500 public and private art projects that include 190 permanent outdoor murals, contributing to the region’s global reputation as an arts destination.