ArtWorks News

Committed to the Youth and Artists We Serve: A message from our New CEO & Artistic Director

Dear Friends,

I hope you and yours are safe and healthy.

Everyone at ArtWorks is thinking of you, and everyone in our community, in this moment. We send you wishes for resiliency and ingenuity. So much in the world has changed, and we know everyone is impacted. We’re sure the way we work will never look the same. At times like these, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, because no one is certain of what tomorrow may bring.

At ArtWorks we’re focused on what unites us. We are confident in what will remain the same no matter how many other things may change.

These include:

  • The needs of the youth, artists and communities we serve.
  • The impact we have on their lives.
  • The role we play in our broader community
  • The passion every staff member brings to our work.

Please know none of this is changing.

While the HOW we work together now has changed and will continue to evolve, the WHY we work remains.

Our team is looking at the role ArtWorks can play as Cincinnati turns its attention to restarting our economy and revitalizing our community. We’re here to move our community forward to a brighter future. Moments like these present opportunities to step up in new ways, as our community often does. And it’s in ArtWorks’ DNA to be part of that creative, optimistic path forward.

It’s in this spirit that I step into the role of CEO & Artistic Director, with both humility and confidence, to focus on how much more we can do in the months and years ahead — with the youth and artists we serve.

I couldn’t be more energized by our potential.

ArtWorks is an organization I love deeply. I first came here when I was 18 as a Youth Apprentice, and I couldn’t stay away. For 17 years, I’ve had the honor of guiding ArtWorks’ programming and impact, and my passion for our mission, our team, our youth and our artists is boundless.

I’m humbled by this opportunity and thrilled to show how someone who started here as a young apprentice artist can one day lead this beloved organization. It speaks volumes about the character and culture of this special place that you helped create.

I appreciate the confidence of our Board and am especially grateful for the mentorship of our founder Tamara Harkavy who has always recognized talent and potential in those around her. I am very grateful for Tamara’s friendship and a long tenure working and learning from her.

I am also inspired by Lauren Hannan Shafer, who has demonstrated her belief in our entire staff, myself included, to lead the organization forward at a time when the positive impact we can have on our community is more needed than ever.

I look forward to getting to know you better and working with you to carry our impact forward. Thank you for your dedication to our mission and for being a vital part of our creative potential.

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

P.S. Below are ArtWorks stories of impact to brighten your day.

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Having trouble? View on YouTube.


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. ​Learn more at

Photo by Andrew Houston.