I find the last days of summer to be highly reflective.  My dad used to take the entire month of August as vacation, a time of restoration and planning for a highly demanding year ahead. For a kid, this was a great thing: consecutive weeks with parents in a place of serenity, away from the stresses of the normal routine. Time was a measure of how many books were read.

Flash forward a few decades – not saying how many – and I find that’s not so easy for me. A friend of mine, Margot, swears by three-week vacations. One week to unwind, one to restore and relax, and one to do all things you neglected to do in the previous 50. 

But this year, my family and I did manage a seven-day get-away to a place of serenity, on a lake with a view of spectacular sunsets. On the long car-ride home, I asked my 8-year-old twins to write in their journals about what they experienced. The result, from my daughter Delaney, was an “S.A. on My Vacation”.  [An S.A.? Oh, right – an essay.]

Banana boating, bike riding, foosball and rafting were on her list of way-cool activities. But high-scorer for me as Proud Mama was the afternoon in the arts-and-crafts studio, where she painted this awesome interpretation of one of those sunsets and I muddled the lakeside view. Neither of us will get a blue ribbon for artistic technique, but our vacation memories through art will be just as significant decades from now  – and maybe more so -- as those spent in extreme sports. I will treasure the memory of painting side-by-side with my daughter, discussing whose Blue had the most Green or Silver and whether the tree really did have arms. 
Summer Painting

Besides the memories and the quality time, though, getting our hands messy with paint served another purpose. We were “flexing our creativity muscles,” as Katherine Masterson says in her article about Cincinnati’s summer arts camps in this week’s issue of the Ripple Effect. We were experimenting, problem-solving and tapping into our imaginations to create something new.  Keeping those “creativity muscles” in shape is critical for success in the 21st century workplace.  

From the Cincinnati Art Museum to The Carnegie to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, summer means giving kids fun, but high-impact, creativity workouts. At The Carnegie, for instance, the creative process around writing original plays teaches children about plot, character development, public speaking, and cooperation.   The gains can be significant: after Shakespeare’s summer camp, for instance, students rated their confidence 22% higher, their happiness 10% higher, and their public speaking skills 11% higher.  

We know from research at ArtsWave that a surprisingly high percent – about 2/3 -- of the region’s residents actively engages in art-making of one type or another. The percentage of you who are active art-makers jumps to 75% among residents who are also active attendees at the many professional events produced by our major arts institutions. But sadly, if you’re like me, personal creative enterprise often requires the breathing room of vacation to make the time. Summer isn’t quite over – you still have a chance to do something messy and creative. Consider it a challenge from ArtsWave and share photos using #ArtsRipple! And throughout the fall we’ll be giving you plenty of ideas for self-expression through art, so that the creativity workout can continue.