Tamara Harkavy

The ArtWorks founder talks about Cincinnati’s unique connection between the culinary & visual arts.
photograph by Michael Wilson

CO.STARTERS is the ArtWorks program for creative entrepreneurs; now you’ve branched into the local food scene, right?

Yes, CO.STARTERS Kitchen Edition. It’s a deeper dive into the sector of food-based businesses—not restaurants so much, but people who are making things. It’s a beautiful partnership with Findlay Market and Kitchen. James Avant of OCD Cakes and Blair Fornshell of Brown Bear Bakery are among our graduates.

We love how ArtWorks murals have turned the city into a gallery!

We think we can enliven the city through the conversation that art can start. The murals tell stories of our history, and part of our history is steeped in beer and food. Most people enjoy breaking bread together, and art has that same power of connection. Those beautiful works allow us to do the transformative work we do; investing in our youth and our professional artists is our heart and soul.

How do we stack up to other cities as an arts community?

I don’t know of any other city in the country that supports creativity the way we do. We’re a large enough city to have an incredible menu of arts organizations and offerings, but small enough that we’re connected to each other.

What do you see as the connection between art and food in our area?

Cooks, photographers, web developers, other creatives—they become this cohort that supports each other. There are mini ecosystems that develop to create a bigger, better city of creative entrepreneurs. Core Clay and Fox Aprons and Brush Factory and We Might Be Vikings: They’re not in the restaurant business, but they’re in the business of supporting restaurants by designing menus, making furniture, making plates. It’s a marvel how interconnected food and the arts are.

We want to enjoy a night out in OTR. Will you be our tour guide to public art?

Sure! First, we’ll stop at A Tavola and have a drink and an appetizer outside, and we’ll look at The Cincinnati Strong Man right across Vine Street. Then we’ll take a stroll to Music Hall and have another drink in Washington Park and see The Golden Muse overlooking the park. Then maybe we’ll hop on the streetcar and go up to French Crust, and we’ll pass more murals. Then we can go to Rhingeist and see the mural right across the street, Rise, which celebrates brewing. Then we’ll get back on the streetcar and go party on Main Street, and we’ll see James Brown, Mr. Dynamite. The murals become backdrops for our experience in the neighborhood.

Vital Stats
Born: Cincinnati, 1957
Home: Norwood
Marital status: Married to Matthew Kotlarczyk
Career: After earning a master’s degree in urban planning from UC, went to work for Downtown Cincinnati Inc. Calls getting fired the “worst and best thing.” Inspired to start a youth employment program in 1996. ArtWorks became an arts-based workforce development program that’s hired 3,300 kids and 2,700 local artists, and created 90 murals in 36 neighborhoods. CO.STARTERS, a 9-week business development course, has launched creative & culinary entrepreneurs. See ArtWorksCincinnati.org for more.

Bryn’s long career in publishing took a left turn sometime around 2010, when she discovered the joy of food writing. Since then, she’s found professional nirvana as the editor of Edible Ohio Valley, author of The Findlay Market Cookbook, and occasional instructor at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s. Find her seasonal recipes at writes4food.com.