Elizabeth Mariner’s petite stature belies her standing in Cincinnati’s arts and non-profit community. Since 2008, along with her husband, Thom, this diminutive blonde powerhouse has been the driving force behind Express Cincinnati, a free print and online publication showcasing Cincinnati’s creative arts and non-profits, along with the vast number of philanthropic social events here in the Queen City.
In the mid-1990s, Mariner, a divorced mother of three found herself in Cincinnati with a degree in art history. Finding little to offer in the job market in her field and with prompting from her new husband, Thom, Mariner decided to head back to school, fill her tool box with some new skills and study graphic design. This proved to be just the ticket, and thus she began a successful career with Photonics Graphics until a chance encounter one evening at downtown’s Lavomatic restaurant.
During dinner a friend informed Mariner and her husband that Express Cincinnati was up for sale. The publication had been around since 1995, and the founding couple was on the verge of retirement. At the time, Elizabeth was ensconced in her design job, and Thom was in marketing research. Running a magazine? Working together at home? A bit scary, but the couple decided to take on the huge risk and made the purchase, she says.
At first, Thom would keep his day job, and Elizabeth would work on Express full time, thereby giving her the title of owner/creative director/publisher. Thom’s title is co-publisher/arts editor. Eventually, Thom came on full time after one year, and they both work on Express equally, but Mariner says that her husband "will admit she’s still the boss."
Mariner says that now she loves working from home with her husband. "It was an adjustment at first. But with working at home, it’s great to roll out of bed and stay in your pajamas. And I love not having to go out in snow," she says. The couple lives in West Chester now, but would eventually like to move closer into the city.
Over the years, some distinct changes have been made to the original format of Express, reflecting the couple’s unique interests and personalities. When Express was first founded, the publication focused mainly on philanthropic events, but with the Mariner’s deep passion and commitment to local arts and culture, there has been a shift to include the abundant wealth of offerings this city is fortunate to have. "Our personal goal with each issue is to be able to fit in the incredible amount of content we receive," Mariner says. "With the help of an amazing editor, somehow we manage to do it!"
September’s issue received a facelift with a bold new graphic and reorganized content. Mariner’s future plans for the publication are simple, yet personally meaningful. She relishes writing for Express and would like to do more of it in order to share her point of view on the fabulous things going on in the city, she says. She would like to see content expansion and additional articles featuring individuals and organizations in the non-profit sector.
As the publisher of Express Cincinnati, Mariner has established a position very close to a lot of these non-profits as well as their various events. "I’ve been to a lot of the events and certainly through Express, I know them all. If you want to know what volunteer opportunities are available, get in touch with me, and I will point you in the right direction," she says.