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Tamara Harkavy is the founder and former CEO of ArtWorks where for 25 years she oversaw its growth from a small non-profit to Cincinnati’s largest public art program, creating a model for transforming people and places through investments in creativity. Under Harkavy’s direction, 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 including 190 permanent outdoor murals, contributing to the region’s global reputation as an arts destination and an urban, outdoor gallery.
Harkavy founded ArtWorks to address a lack of employment opportunities for teens and to recognize the lasting contributions that artists can make to an urban place. Through ArtWorks, youth gain professional workplace readiness skills, and professional artists benefit by opportunities to advance their careers. The organization works through innovative collaborations with community-based organizations, city agencies, nonprofit organizations, schools, the private sector, and philanthropies. Among ArtWorks innovations is the 2015 program Ink Your Love, a public tattoo project led by international artists Kurt and Kremena in partnership with the Cincinnati Reds and over 50 local artists. In sum, ArtWorks invests in urban creatives, both emerging and established.
In 2017 Harkavy was tapped to be on the creative leadership team for BLINK, an interactive multi-media event spanning 20 city blocks including the newly revived Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods. Over four days, one million people attended this free event in 2017. In 2019 BLINK returned, expanding across the Ohio River to Covington where more than 1.5 million people attended.
Harkavy’s numerous awards include a C-Suite Award in 2019, YWCA Career Woman of Achievement in 2013 and 2007 Cincinnati Enquirer Woman of the Year. In 2018, TEDxCincinnati honored Harkavy at the inaugural Extraordinary Women event. Recently, Cincinnati Magazine named Harkavy one of Cincinnati’s top 300 business leaders. Harkavy is a member of Leadership Cincinnati’s Class 38.
ArtWorks has won numerous awards under Harkavy’s leadership, including the City Livability Award by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, two Cincinnati Post-Corbett Awards, the Ambassador Award from the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau and a Community Impact Award from the American Marketing Association.
Harkavy serves on the board of the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, Mercantile Library, National Museum of Women in the Arts (Ohio Chapter) and the 3CDC program committee. She is on the leadership team planning BLINK in partnership with Brave Berlin, Agar, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Previously, Harkavy has served on the boards of Ohio Citizen’s for the Arts and Tender Mercies. She was a founding member of the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund.
Harkavy co-authored two books, a best seller about the Big Pig Gig and Transforming Cincinnati (with John Fox) published on the occasion of ArtWorks’ 10th anniversary of their mural program (Orange Frazier Press).
Harkavy holds an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Cincinnati.