ArtWorks' summer job program to bring art, music and focus to Cincinnati youth

Each summer for the past 15 years ArtWorks has put young people in Cincinnati to work by creating public artwork throughout the city.  The Summer Jobs Program includes a variety of efforts, but is more often known for its MuralWorks program that will have installed 34 murals throughout the region in more than two dozen neighborhoods by the end of this summer.

"In 2007, Mayor Mallory asked ArtWorks to do at least one mural in each of the 52 city neighborhoods," said Tamara Harkavy, Director, ArtWorks.  "We're trying to do the unexpected and push ourselves to create art that makes people ask questions and engage in dialogue."

The existing murals around town are currently seen by an estimated 153 million motorists each year - a number that is expected to exceed 200 million annually following the completion of six new murals this summer.  The new murals will be installed in Sayler Park, North Fairmount, Westwood, Over-the-Rhine, Covington, and the East End and will impact five new neighborhoods on the Mayor's original checklist.

"Many of these kids come back as teaching staff after they initially participate in the program," explained Harkavy.  "We love that they grow up with us and take their own path, and we're really excited because of the opportunities for the kids.

MuralWorks' reach goes beyond the hundreds of millions that are exposed to them each year, and has been recognized nationally.  Sources state that ArtWorks' MuralWorks program is poised to receive a "huge national award" in the coming weeks.

In addition to creating six new murals and employing 75 kids between the ages of 14 and 18 years old in addition to 20 staff members over the course of the summer, the Summer Jobs Program will also assist in the painting of pianos used for the "Play Me, I'm Yours" piano installation later this summer. "Play Me" will place pianos around the city in public places for use.

The Summer Jobs program will also partner with the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) and the American Sign Museum (ASM) to paint on the walls of CAM's Ambulatory.  Part of The American Road project, the Ambulatory will feature landscape paintings complimented by sign installations by ASM directing museum visitors to the painting.  Harkavay also says that the summer program will once again paint backdrops for traveling shows for the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati.

"To my knowledge, what we're doing at the Cincinnati Art Museum has never been done before," said Harkavy in reference to painting directly inside the museum.

According to Harkavy, ArtWorks interviewed 385 kids and was only able to hire 75 due to current economic conditions.  You can support the program and ArtWorks' efforts by making a donation online or by mailing a check made out to "ArtWorks" at 20 East Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
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