By Heidi Happonen
For 20 years, the community of Camano Island just an hour’s drive north of downtown Seattle has become a destination for artists and art lovers. This year, the community is hosting its 20th annual Camano Island Studio Tour over Mother’s Day weekend and the following weekend where 32 studios will open their doors and welcome people in to see how art is made and learn about the stories of the artists who live there.
But what makes Camano Island particularly unique are the number of people who moved to the community following successful careers in law, architecture, aerospace and many other fields in order to pursue their first love – art.
“This isn’t about creating a crafty hobby to wile away the hours in retirement,” said Mary Simmons, one of the more prolific glass artists on the island. “It’s hard work, and we are all committed to constant learning and development with the goal to not only excel at our discipline but ultimately create meaningful income selling our art to individuals and businesses.”
The entire community of Camano Island in many ways challenges the perception of retirement and has inspired thousands of visitors who make the annual Tour a family tradition.
Some of the artists that are included on the Tour have their artwork displayed across the region – from local iconic restaurants like Ivar’s to the Governor’s Mansion.
“Sometimes people who are not familiar with our arts community don’t understand how impressive the arts has become here,” Simmons added. “They assume because many of us are older and retired that we aren’t serious about our work. They are wrong.”
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the pursuit of art as we age is incredibly valuable – even for those who may not be looking to build a second career out of it.
In their Creativity and Aging Study, the NEA demonstrated how on-going, community-based arts programs improve the quality of life for older Americans. Completed in 2006, the study found that after a year of participating in cultural arts programs, older adults above the age of 65 experienced measurable health benefits. These included:
• Decreased doctor visits
• Lower prescription medication usage
• Fewer falls
So for older adults who may not have a passion for art that is so intense that it warrants moving to Camano Island and becoming a professional artist, the investment in arts at any level has measurable positive value.
To find an arts and cultural program in your community, contact your local art museum or cultural center.