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Meet the Staff: Meredith Swortwood

Meredith joins the Ohio Art Council's Investment team as an investment associate, helping to oversee all agency grant administration and grantmaking activities. A life-long Ohio resident and native, she holds a bachelor's degree in zoology from The Ohio State University and an MFA from Columbus College of Art and Design. The scientist-turned-artist is excited to combine her dual passions for data and the arts in her new role.

Q: You have interests in both science and the arts. Can you tell me a bit more about your background in both? 

Yes, my interests in science and the arts goes as far back as I can remember. I grew up reading Zoobooks; collecting things like insects, leaves, and toads; and watching Jeff Corwin and Steve Irwin on TV. Then, I would practice illustrating everything with pencil, Crayons, Play-doh, or a Crayola watercolor set.  

Once it came time to pursue an undergraduate degree, I chose zoology and earned a BA from The Ohio State University. After working as a zoologist for almost eight years, I went through a major life change that motivated me to pursue my other love, the arts. I spent a year building my studio portfolio and applied to the MFA program at the Columbus College of Art & Design. I was so grateful to be admitted into the MFA program and graduated in 2021. Now zoology informs my studio artwork! 

Q: For several years, you worked at the Columbus Zoo. What were some memorable moments for you during your time there? 

This may surprise people, but my most memorable moments at the zoo weren’t with the animals but with my coworkers! Our team spent so much time together traveling or working on projects or programs at the zoo that we all became very close. No matter what kind of day we were having, we all knew how to make each other laugh. And honestly, the most joyous memories with my coworkers came from the most unexpected moments, like moving bird enclosures in the rain, cutting perches for raptors, or just cleaning together in the mornings.  

Q: You recently joined the Ohio Arts Council’s staff. What are you most looking forward to about your new role here at the OAC? 

I can’t wait to see the results of a full grant cycle! I myself have received grant funds from another organization to support my artistic career, and it made such an impact on my creative development. I remember filling out my final grant report, sending thank you letters, and feeling very emotional. I was very grateful that an organization had chosen to invest in me so that I could share my creativity with others.  

So really, I am looking forward to being on the other side of the grant process—not as a recipient—but as a grant coordinator working to support the arts in our state. 

Q: How do you see your background as both a scientist and artist playing into your new role here at the Ohio Arts Council? 

Basically, I’m a shameless nerd. I like puzzles, looking for patterns in data, and finding creative solutions. I am still coming to the realization that I use the same workflow as an artist and as a scientist: describe, analyze, and interpret. I can see this same process playing into my role as a grant coordinator at the Ohio Arts Council. But now, I will be tracking grant-related activities and data—not animal behavior or studio art subjects.  

Q: As a lifelong Ohio resident, living in both Columbus and Cincinnati with connections to Northeast Ohio, what are some of your favorite things about the state? 

I grew up in Cincinnati, my parents grew up in Ashtabula County, and I've been living in Columbus for about 15 years.  

But, goodness, I just really love Ohio. Sometimes, I feel like a walking advertisement for the state! And most of my favorite things are related to the outdoors and landscapes. I love the hills and ravines in Cincinnati, Lake Erie in Ashtabula and Lake County, and around central Ohio, I love the parks and surrounding farmland.  

Q: What do you like to do outside of work? 

If I had to pick what I like to do most (aside from spending time with my boyfriend), it would be walking, gardening, or sitting outside with my cats. I am really extroverted, so being outside slows me down and gets me quiet. Right now, I walk along a ravine in Clintonville at least a few times a week. Then, my boyfriend and I share a garden at his home. He manages the chickens and produce, and I take care of the flowers and herbs. 

Lastly, sitting outside with my cats is so fun and relaxing. My younger cat, Tommy Pickles, likes to explore the ravine and climb. My older cat, Fiona, sticks closer to home, sunbathes, and guards our territory very seriously. Last year she even swatted a large buck on the nose that got too close to her! 

Featured image by Andrew Paa. 
Photos provided Meredith Swortwood. Gardening portrait by Leah Grace Shaffer. 

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