In the October 2016 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, we talk with Colleen Houston, the Vice President of Programs and Operations at ArtWorks in Cincinnati, Ohio. Best known for the more than 100 street art murals, the non-profit organization does much more than simply beautify the Queen City outwardly. Read what Houston has to say about ArtWorks and its future projects below, and be sure to subscribe to The Artist’s Magazine.
“We really started out as youth employment and job training in the arts, and we’ve expanded over the past 20 years. We still employ youth, but we do much more than that now; we’ve grown up a lot. We focus on public art, we do lots of public art throughout the city. We’re probably best known for our murals, and those are large-scale public exterior permanent murals.
Our goal is for everyone to learn about our mission and how we’re making an impact, which includes giving creative jobs to young artists ages 14 to 21 and have them work in apprenticeship positions, mentored by professional artists and art educators. We also do a lot in the area of health and wellness. One of our signature programs is called Hero Design Company. Our apprentices work individually with children that are facing some sort of hardship. They co-design a superhero insignia that the apprentice then refines and has sewn onto a cape. It’s really all about empowering children facing hardships to think about their own superpowers, think about their best qualities and best traits.
Bottom line, we invest in creativity. We invest in individuals and we invest in places to transform our community. What’s so exciting is sometimes artists take that leap with us and they try something new. They start creating larger scale works or public works, and they do it through that support system, through the belief that they can.
We also do works of art that transforms environments, like beautifying examination rooms in maternity care. We’re really focusing more on social awareness issues, like the stigma of homelessness and the reality of gun violence. We also have an area of focus called Creative Enterprise. Creative Enterprise invests in education and provides money to small creative entrepreneurs that are starting or growing their businesses.
We have a 9 week business training program called CO.STARTERS. Over 300 businesses have participated in that program; 50 new businesses from CO.STARTERS that have a creative focus have launched in Cincinnati over the last five years. We also have an amazing event called Big Pitch, where eight finalists get up and give a 5-minute pitch about why they’re in a position as established artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs to really grow. There’s a community vote and a jury vote, and if you win, you can take home as much as $20,000 that night.
If you think about Cincinnati, it has such a rich history of artisans and makers and entrepreneurs. It’s really just about celebrating the whole spectrum of creativity—and how our entire city is a wonderful place with creativity that’s alive and well.” – Colleen Houston, Vice President of Programs and Operations at ArtWorks.