On the Record with Diane Ramos: Communication Manager for the City of Oberlin


Photo Courtesy of Diane Ramos

Diane Ramos is the communications manager for the City of Oberlin and a practicing artist.

Diane Ramos has been the City of Oberlinʼs communications manager since 2021. Recently, she worked with Firelands Association for the Visual Arts and Oberlin High School students to make the Black History Month portrait contest possible. In addition to her work for the City, Ramos is a practicing artist who was the FAVA artist-in-residence in 2019. Her work incorporates a variety of media, including photography, painting, and crochet. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You grew up in Lorain, and now you’re working here in Oberlin. Do you think the communities that you’ve lived and worked in have influenced your work in government and art?

Yeah, definitely in one way or another. We kind of all just build off our experiences. I feel like it’s getting better now, but when I was growing up, art really wasnʼt something that was readily accessible or encouraged. I remember, when I was in high school, actually being discouraged from taking art classes. Now, in this position, I have the opportunity to go a different direction and guide things more —like with the last project we did with the Black History Month banners. Projects that engage local students and the young people by giving them access to art and opportunities are only beneficial for a community. So Iʼm glad that I could bring that side of things to the City of Oberlin, because there are things that I didnʼt have growing up that I wish I had.

Why do you think art is so important to a community?

I think that art is important because it can be so many things to so many different people. For me, I talk about the conceptual side of things and working through these ideas or problems that affect my life. But also, it could be something like, “This is beautiful and it brings me joy.” It can mean so much to so many different people, and I donʼt know of anything else that does that. I think that the ability to create art is beneficial for everyone. I think to be able to bring those opportunities to the community is golden. You have an opportunity to hone skills, or look at things in a different way, or use it as therapy, like I do. It’s a way of getting out what you canʼt get out otherwise, and I think doing that through creative means is very unique.

What kind of role do you think art does or should play in the Oberlin community?

Everything. Art is everything, right? If I wasn’t an art major, I couldn’t do the majority of the things that I’m doing in my job. Itʼs that ability to not only create, but also think in a creative manner to come up with new solutions to problems.

Working in a small government, it’s different every day. New problems arise, and you have to have the ability to think critically and think creatively to better the lives that you serve. I think thatʼs something that I learned as an art major. I want to bring that to any community I serve, wherever I land.

What do you see as major obstacles to the accessibility of arts in Oberlin?

Just generally speaking, the perception of art as not being valuable is a problem everywhere. But I think in Oberlin, maybe itʼs more of not knowing how to take advantage of it.

We have so much here. And outside of Oberlin, people think of Oberlin as this great arts community, but itʼs not so much shining here as I feel it should be. We have an amazing museum here. We have Oberlin College. We have these galleries downtown and all of these incredible resources. They’re just not as promoted as they should be. They’re not as accessible as they should be. I think thatʼs been an obstacle, and you need someone or some organization to champion those types of efforts. Iʼm trying — Iʼm doing the best I can. I think that thereʼs more work to be done, but I think having that recognition that there is so much here — thereʼs so much potential for our community to shine as an arts hub, and Iʼm working to do that.

You mentioned you worked on the Black History Month portrait contest. Will we be seeing more projects like that bringing art to the community?

We’re hoping to! One of the things that we’re building on this year and hoping to do is the Black History project. I think everybody involved in it was like, “Yes, we need to do this every year,” so thatʼs going to continue.

One of the other things that we are putting together now is we are partnering with Firelands Association for the Visual Arts to grant funding for mural projects in the downtown business district. Thatʼs one of the things that weʼve heard, that thereʼs interest in these visual arts elements downtown. Moneyʼs always an issue, so thatʼs the resource we are able to provide.

Since we’re the government, we donʼt necessarily want to be in the business of selecting art downtown, so we’re fortunate to have an organization like FAVA right in our community that has those resources and can put together selection panels and work with artists and art in mind. It’s a pilot program this year, so we will have that evaluation at the end of the year, and hopefully we can keep that going and see that expand.

I’ll give you one other thing that we’re working on this year, though I donʼt have a lot of details yet because we’re still in the idea-building process. We are looking to establish a yearly Art in the Park event, like an Art Fair. We’re still building what the event is going to look like — we definitely want it to be very arts-driven, but also very Oberlin, so we want to work with all the galleries downtown. We want to work with Oberlin College and the Art department there and the Conservatory. We want to bring in the high school art students as well. We want it to be this very Oberlin community, arts-driven, annual event to happen downtown later this year. I think thatʼs one of those attempts to really let all the wonderful arts resources and organizations here shine.