Tuesday, November 20, 2018

HHS Art Students Exhibit in Simultaneous Juried University Shows

Students L to R are Ella Barnes, Blake Egan, Kara Wright, Donovan Staab, Carly Lorenz, Sabrina Harrington, Ansley Grimm, and Adele Ross.  Not Pictured: Kyley Kunkel, Ella Surrey. Photo: Kristine Donnelly
I have to be honest, I am in awe at the talent coming out of the art department at Highlands High School. I have a hard time drawing a straight line with a ruler so when I see these pieces I am so impressed with the depth and skill of the artists.

by Caleb Parks
A number of junior and senior students are in simultaneous juried shows at Xavier University and Thomas More University.

Thomas More opening. Photo: Andrew Eckerle

Teachers were allowed to submit several pieces to Xavier and then, says art teacher, Kristine Donnelly, “a jury of professional artists chose which ones met the standards to be in the show. ’Juried’ shows are considered more prestigious.” 
by Ella Barnes
Kara Wright, won third place at the XU show and Donovan Staab won the Faculty’s Choice award at the Thomas More show.
by Kara Wright

Donnelly says of the Xavier show that, “four art students, two from digital photography and two from AP Art, had work accepted into the show.” They are:

Ella Barnes. “Lost with the Birds” (photograph) 11th

Ansley Grimm. “Trapped” (photograph)  12th

Caleb Parks. "Classic” (photograph) 12th

Kara Wright. "Mysteries”  (charcoal on paper) 12th

These students entered pieces into the Thomas More University show.

Caroline Lorenz. 12. Painting
, Close-up

Blake Eagan. 11. Digital Photograph
, Black and White Portrait

Kyley Kunkel, 11.

Ella Surray, 11  Colored Portrait

Donovan Staab, 12. Digital Photograph, 
Hexagonal Landscape

Adele Ross, 11. 

Sabrina Harrington, 12. Digital Photograph
, Smiling Woman

by Ansley Grimm

Congratulations to everyone for producing such impressive pieces.

Monday, November 19, 2018

St. Elizabeth Foundation Receives $1.5M for New Mobile Mammography Unit

Grant will expand services to rural, underserved counties

The Maxon Foundation, U.S. Bank, N.A., Trustee has awarded the St. Elizabeth Foundation $1.5 million for a new mobile mammography unit to help meet the needs of rural populations in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. The grant includes $1 million for the van and the screening technology housed within it, and another $500,000 for maintenance to protect the investment for years to come.

The gift comes at a critical and exciting time, following St. Elizabeth’s recent groundbreaking on a $140 million world-class cancer center – and launch of a $30 million capital campaign to support it – which will put Northern Kentucky on the map for innovative, personalized cancer care.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women — one in eight women will develop it over the course of her lifetime,” said Carri Chandler, St. Elizabeth Foundation vice president. “Our greatest defense is early detection. And with this generous gift from The Maxon Foundation, we can be right here for even more women, helping them fight cancer in the communities where they live and work.”

The van will bring screening services to predominantly rural and medically underserved regions where access to healthcare poses yet another challenge to women already disadvantaged by low income, multiple and conflicting responsibilities, and lack of exposure to preventive care and health education.

The unit will offer digital mammography and tomosynthesis (3D mammograms) by appointment and on a walk-in basis – no doctor’s order needed – for women age 40 and older. In addition to facilitating screenings, staff on board will provide preventive health education, support and linkage to follow-up care when needed.

“Many of these women face significant barriers to obtaining healthcare – not just transportation issues, but cultural, financial and educational constraints,” said Madonna Vinicombe, St. Elizabeth’s mobile mammography program manager. “A lot of the women we screen have never even had a mammogram, even though they’re well past 40, the recommended age for annual screenings. This service is literally lifesaving for these vulnerable populations.”

The new addition to the mobile mammography fleet will be on the road by mid-2019, visiting businesses, local health departments and other venues, such as schools, churches, grocery stores, and public events. In the meantime, women can visit stelizabeth.com/mobilemammography or call (859) 655-7400 to find out when the van currently in service will be at a location near them.

Northern Kentucky Attorney Indicted, Charged with Numerous Sex Crimes including Rape, Human Trafficking

Screengrab from Robert Poole's YouTube channel

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Friday that a 50-year-old Northern Kentucky attorney has been indicted by a Kenton County grand jury for numerous sex crimes including rape and human trafficking.

Robert L. Poole, of Burlington, was indicted Nov. 15 on 15 counts:

·         two counts of human trafficking of a minor for commercial sexual activity, Class B felonies;

·         one count of unlawful transaction with a minor under 16 for illegal sexual activity, Class B felony;

·         two counts of unlawful transaction with a minor under 18 for illegal sexual activity, Class C felonies;

·         three counts of human trafficking of an adult for commercial sexual activity, Class C felonies;

·         five counts of complicity to human trafficking of an adult for commercial sexual activity, Class C felonies;

·         one count of third-degree Rape, a Class D felony, and

·         one count of bribing a witness, a Class D felony.

Prosecutors from Beshear’s Special Prosecutions Division are handling the case against Poole in Kenton Circuit Court.

Highland Plaza Holiday Hop | Tuesday, November 27

Thanksgiving week is here and soon the holiday rush will be here.

Highland Plaza will be hosting their 3rd annual Holiday Hop on Tuesday, November 27 from 4 to 8 p.m.

The Highland Plaza is located at 654 Highland Avenue in Fort Thomas.

There will sales and specials at most of the shops, pictures with Santa, carolers, letters to Santa, raffles and more. Cobblestone Cafe will open throughout the entirety of the event, so make sure to grab your favorite while they are open during dinner hours.

You don’t want to miss this family-friendly holiday event.

Participating businesses include Monera Chic Boutique, Alterations by Frances, Cobblestone Cafe, HMAC, Faded Finds, Diamonds & Dimples and more.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Highlands-Covington Catholic Highlight Video

Covington Catholic Ends Highlands Successful Season in Park Hills

Colonels Shut Out Bluebirds

PHOTO: Bob Jackson. Highlands senior quarterback Grady Cramer sets up to pass while senior offensive lineman Trent Johnson sets up to block in the region championship at Covington Catholic on Friday.
Over the years, the Highlands Bluebirds football team has ventured over to Dennis Griffin Stadium in Park Hills and consistently recorded huge victories.

But the last two trips have been a painful result. That meant the end of the season Friday.


Since a 17-0 loss to Lexington Catholic in 2005 in the Class AAA Region championship at David Cecil Memorial Stadium, the Covington Catholic Colonels (13-0 overall) have posted the two lone shutouts of the Bluebirds by that combined score. The defending Class 5A state champion Colonels extended the state's longest current winning streak to 28 in a row and the Bluebirds finished the season 10-3 with a 36-0 win Friday.

CovCath won its third straight district championship with a 21-14 win over Highlands in Fort Thomas on Oct. 12. The Colonels have beaten the Bluebirds in four straight meetings including a 52-0 verdict in Park Hills last year.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Student Professional Studies Center, Maker Space of Fort Thomas Independent Schools to Open at 20 Grand

New space at 20 Grand Avenue is being custom renovated for Fort Thomas schools to support student entrepreneurship, career pathways and more.

The short hallway leading into the school board room was packed for the November meeting. Despite the cold outside, the room was hot, almost stifling. As is often the case, teachers, staff and older students gathered near the doorway outside the room, leaning in to listen as a group of elementary students presented on their recent art project. Those in the hallway had given up their seats to the children and their families.

It was no wonder, then, that the crowd cheered at the news that this will be the last time the board will hold its public meeting at 28 North Fort Thomas Avenue.

Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent Karen Cheser announced that the board has decided to lease new space at 20 Grand Avenue. In December, the board will meet in a new room there that is designed to accommodate up to 100 people.

"We are very excited about the new space," said Dr. Cheser. "It will extend the learning opportunities for our students preschool through 12th grade. As you saw this evening, we are in dire need of a board meeting room…and we continue to be out of space for many needs."

Matthew Bertasso, Highlands Principal, has been fully engaged in this process and has been key in giving input on how the space should be utilized.

“This is going to provide a space for students to dive deeper into a few key content areas, connect that learn and give them a more authentic experience as they work with businesses and industry professionals," said Bertasso.

"Students will immerse themselves in a process that provides relevance to their learning, builds relationships with others and meets the rigorous expectations of Fort Thomas Schools. Teachers will be provided with the space and opportunity to integrate subjects and work more collaboratively with others.”

The space has yet to be named, but input from staff will help create the brand.

 A new vision unfolds

The new space on the first floor provides a multi use room for board meetings and comfortable space to meet with mentors and community members.

Thanks to the vision and generosity of the building’s new owner, Dan Gorman, the space has been renovated to specifically meet the needs of Fort Thomas schools. In accordance with Kentucky law, the schools will rent the space on an annual basis. The decision to rent rather than buy will save the district significantly in both time and money, said Cheser.

RELATED: Dan Gorman Has Visions for Fort Thomas—And Africa 

The new board room is one small piece of a new school presentation and education facility that encompasses part of the first floor of the building and the entire second floor. The first floor space will include the board room, a Teacher Training Center, a student presentation venue, an itinerant personnel office, an area for a student pop-up store and a districtwide maker space.

Cheser spoke at length about all the opportunities made possible by the new space for activities such as student presentations, meetings with mentors and student entrepreneurship efforts.

"I heard a statistic lately that 72 percent of high school students would like to be entrepreneurs, but only about two percent get any kind of training on that. We really want to change that up and help our students have this opportunity."

 Support for student entrepreneurship

She said in speaking with business leaders, discussions included ways to expand leadership training to students and to include their pop-up shops in places like Tower Park or at events around town. Students have expressed interest in a food truck and other business ideas. The new center will offer students space to have their businesses and to meet with investors and industry professionals.

The maker space will feature seven three-D printers, a vinyl cutter, tshirt press and other large equipment. It offers opportunities that seem only limited by the imagination of the students, teachers, staff and community, said Cheser.

"We are currently writing grants for things like our STEM Bike Club, a club for eighth graders where students will create bikes from scratch working with mentors from GE. They will learn about mechanical engineering after school and at the end they can either keep their bike or give it away. And that’s an example of what we can do here."

Cheser added, "We have had a lot of support already from business leaders who have heard about this…We’re hoping that once they get involved and they work with our students, they will see how exciting this is – and that might translate into more funding."

 A professional studies center

The professional studies center on the second floor provides flexible conference and presentation space.

The second floor is devoted to a professional studies center that will support Highlands High School students on various career paths. While computer application development careers are a perfect fit for the space, teachers and counselors involved in allied health science, graphic and media arts and entrepreneurship have expressed interest in using the space for presentations, client meetings, projects and lectures.

Built to accommodate a wide variety of uses, the upper floor includes open working spaces, conference rooms and smaller rooms that can be walled off with glass doors. A café is planned as well as comfortable group discussion areas.

In addition to providing badly needed space and more room to accommodate tuition-paying students at the high school, Cheser said having an off-campus site affects how the community and the students engage with each other. Last year educators from Fort Thomas studied successful districts across the country and found that offsite facilities created a different feel, a very career-focused environment, she said.

 The right environment

Assistant Superintendent Bill Bradford agreed. "For us, this endeavor is incredibly important because it will allow our students to immerse in their rigorous course work, yet in an environment that is set up like a business," he said.

WATCH: Channel 5 Spotlight on Midway Cafe - Best Wings in Cincinnati

Venice Beach, Fort Thomas: How a Random Garage Became an Exclusive Weightlifting Club

Greg Gadd, Brad Fennell, Rob Roy and Adam Johnston. 

By Jessie Stringfield-Eden

If you’re on a leisurely walk around lunchtime near the corner of Highland Ave. and N. Fort Thomas Ave., you may hear it. Some loud music (probably some AC/DC), a random, playful shout or two followed by some laughter...maybe even the sound of metal scraping together followed by a grunt or two.

If you’re curious (and brave enough), you may follow those unusual sounds to 3 N. Fort Thomas Ave. to discover that the double garage space below Fennell Appraisal Service, Inc. has been transformed into an impressive weight lifting space. On any given day, you’ll likely find the same four guys in the space — Brad Fennell, Rob Roy, Greg Gadd and Adam Johnston.

Fennell, who is kind of the ‘Lifting Leader’ of the group, says the space was created to mimic “Muscle Beach” in Venice, California where bodybuilders (think Arnold Schwarzenegger in his 20s) have lifted weights for decades in a garage right along the boardwalk. Fennell even named his space “Venice” and his daughter, an artist, stylized the space and graffitied the name in black paint on the back wall.

The edgy and functional space, created about 7 years ago, is simple but there is definitely an ‘old school’ vibe which Fennell says he created due to the lack of ‘old school’ gyms in the area. After trying several gyms in Highland Heights, Newport and Fort Thomas, Fennell became annoyed with what he describes as ‘politically correct’ gyms and decided to begin his own.

“We treat it as an old school gym. We can kind of scream, yell, crank up the music and forget about life for a bit,” said Fennell. “There’s no AC and no heat. It’s kind of a ‘suck it up and go’ kind of thing and to us, that’s better than going to a public gym.”

While most are grabbing lunch, you’ll find these guys lifting most days around noon, Monday - Friday and listening to some of the following; AC/DC, Van Halen, LED Zepplin, Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, Pitbull and even some country by Jason Aldean.

All joking, laughter, random yelling and loud music aside, the guys just sport their muscle shirts and do their own thing...but in addition to building bulk, they’ve also built a strong sense of community.

“We’re just normal guys. As we get older, we just want to stay alive, stay healthy, look as good as possible. It’s an enjoyable part of the day and an opportunity to talk about politics, news, sports, life. It’s not just about lifting,” said Fennell. “It’s a 50/50 split between fellowship and lifting. We also have good accountability with each other. It’s been a blessing and we really enjoy it. This is what makes Fort Thomas so great. It’s so low key.”

So what do other people think? Well, besides the occasionally complaint about how loud the music is or how many 80s songs they play, people are honestly intrigued. A muscle garage in NKY is not something you see everyday.

“Some people say ‘Why aren’t you at work?!’ Or ‘Don’t you ever work?’ But this is my life, this is what I do and it’s a major part of my life. I grew up in Fort Thomas so I know a lot of people and they holler in and friends stop by. They find it fascinating. 

Like anything on display, there are bound to be some naysayers but Fennell doesn’t let that bother him. Some people say ‘Why aren’t you at work?!’ or ‘Don’t you ever work?’ but this is my life,” said Fennell.

“This is what I do and it’s a major part of my life.”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

PHOTOS: Ice Storm Brings Damage to Northern Kentucky

Downed trees, power lines caused by an ice storm hit Fort Thomas and northern Kentucky this morning.

Many businesses and homes are without power. Newport Kroger is currently closed (2:00 p.m.).

A large tree branch at the intersection of Memorial Parkway and Rob Roy caused power to go out at Highlands High School and Middle School just as school was set to begin and hundreds of students already starting their day on the early bird schedule.

Hassman and Doyle Lawfirm. 859-655-4430. This is an advertisement.
Duke Energy was able to restore power there before noon, just after a generous donation of a hot lunch for all students provided by Gruelle Dempsey Orthodontics.

Here are some of the photos from around town.

What did you see? Leave a photo comment on our Facebook page to be included.  

Dominic's in Alexandria Latest Small Business to Close

A popular Alexandria restaurant near Bishop Brossart High School and Country Heart Florist and Gifts has closed.

Dominic's, located at 15 Pete Neiser Drive, announced on their Facebook page after four years of being in business.

Described as "home-town cooking with an Italian flair", Dominic's had good reviews on Google (4.5) and Facebook (4.7).

The closure of Dominic's in Alexandria is the latest in a trend of small-business closures in Alexandria. In 2017, the city passed a gross receipts tax, that some have said is at the forefront of some of these closures.

Owner Scott Chichelli told Fort Thomas Matters that when he opened in October of 2014 he was optimistic.

"I ran the numbers and if only half of the people in Alexandria would eat here only once a month, I would be very busy. That wasn’t even counting surrounding areas. We never reached those numbers," he said. "It took three years to see any profit, and then it wasn’t much. People continued to go the chain restaurants rather than supporting us."

Chichelli said he was forced to sell his home and moved to Tennessee to be near family.

"My head cook was interested in taking over and keeping (the restaurant) open (and) on July 28th I basically handed him the keys. I left everything in my name and no money down with an agreement (that he would) pay me monthly. Sadly he was not able to make it." 

RELATED: Country Market to Close After 41 Years

Mayor-Elect, Andy Schabell, said that he believed the tax is one of the biggest issues the city faces.

"I believe that the biggest issue that we are facing right now is the mass exodus of small businesses from our city. Unfortunately, in 2017 the city passed the largest tax increase in our 184 year history," Schabell wrote in a Facebook post.

He said he intends to form a business retention and development committee to work with existing businesses and keep these established businesses in the community.

"I will not sit by and watch numerous businesses close their doors without a plan to recruit and retain new businesses."

SHOWDOWN in Park Hills: Highlands Takes on Covington Catholic in Region Championship

Bluebirds, Colonels Meet for Region 3 Crown

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior wide receiver Nate Roberts appears to make a catch against Anderson County in the second round of the playoffs.
For the first time in three years, the classic Northern Kentucky football rivalry heats up for a Class 5A, Region 3 championship.

The Highlands Bluebirds (10-2) venture to Park Hills attempting to dethrone the defending Class 5A champion Covington Catholic Colonels (12-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. CovCath own's the state's longest winning streak at 27 in a row and has won three straight in the series.

Highlands is also trying to do something it has not done since 1992. That's beat CovCath in the playoffs after losing to the Colonels during the regular season. CovCath held off Highlands, 21-14 in Fort Thomas on Oct. 12.

The two teams met for the region championship five straight years between 2011 and 2015. Highlands won all five during a run of nine straight region championships. The winner of this game is the one that makes the fewest mistakes. Highlands has outscored opponents, 409-147 on the season and CovCath has outscored the opposition, 504-124.

"That's the key when you get to this time of year and in sports when you get into the tournament and the playoffs. You have to play poised," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "You have to play with emotion, but you can't be emotional and any emotion has to be focused on doing your job. It's not about hooting and hollering. You don't get any pre-game points for that. It's all about when the ball is snapped at 7 p.m., every guy has to execute. You do that by being focused and you do that by having the emotion of the moment and not by getting caught up in it."

Highlands has ridden a strong 3-5 defense all season and hopes for another strong performance Friday. The Bluebirds have allowed 1,711 yards rushing and 1,072 passing for averages of just under 143 yards rushing and just more than 89 passing. Weinrich said teams will not trick each other at this time of the year.

A defensive touchdown saved the season for the Bluebirds in the 14-10 win at Anderson County last week. Senior defensive lineman Ben Sisson picked up a fumble and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter. Sisson leads the Bluebirds with four fumble recoveries this year.

Highlands has 22 fumble recoveries after recovering six in the win at Anderson County to go with 14 interceptions. They hope for more Friday. Highlands junior linebacker Mason Schwalbach and senior linebacker Alex Starkey have three fumble recoveries each with senior linebacker Jackson Hagedorn, junior defensive back Jacob Brass and senior defensive back Casey Greene leading the way with three interceptions each.

The Bluebirds also have 17 sacks on the season. Starkey leads the way with four with Hagedorn and junior defensive lineman Zach Lewin recording three each.

Highlands will face a CovCath Spread offense that has rushed for 2,494 yards and passed for 2,362 for averages of just less than 208 rushing and 197 passing per game. Senior running back Casey McGinness leads the way with 1,774 yards rushing on 196 carries and 29 touchdowns for an average of just more than nine yards per carry. McGinness rushed for 203 yards on 28 attempts and two touchdowns averaging a little more than seven yards per carry.

"It's pretty important. We need everyone flying to the ball," Schwalbach said. "It takes everyone to stop (McGinness). He's pretty shifty behind his blockers. We just have to get there faster than they can."

CovCath sophomore quarterback Caleb Jacob completed just 4-of-10 passes for 45 yards against Highlands in the pouring rain. But on the season, Jacob has completed 118-of-175 passes for 2,306 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Junior tight end Michael Mayer leads CovCath with 34 receptions for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns and senior Jack Coldiron has 22 receptions for 550 yards and six scores.

"He's done a great job all year. I've been impressed with him since day one," Weinrich said of Jacob. "They've done a good job of putting him in position to complete passes. I feel they've changed some things from last year to help him. He's responded well the last couple weeks in playoff games."

While the Highlands defense has been consistent, it was a different story for the Highlands Spread offense in the second round of the playoffs. The Bluebirds scored on their first possession of the game at Anderson County on a grass field, but could not finish drives after that.

Highlands has rushed for 1,810 yards and passed for 2,097 for averages of just under 151 rushing and 175 passing per game. Much like the win over Boone County to end the season and the first half of the playoff win over Madison Southern, if the Highlands offense had its best game of the season, Offensive Coordinator Zach Deaton said, "It would look like an offense that picks up first downs, sustain drives, changes field position and gets points up on the board."

Highlands senior running back Cooper Schwalbach is 104 yards shy of hitting 1,000 for the season. He has rushed for 896 yards on 167 carries and 11 touchdowns for an average of about 5.4 per carry. Sophomore Joe Buten has rushed for 515 yards on 73 carries and nine touchdowns for an average of just more than seven yards per carry.

"I think we're getting better and better with that getting the ball for a long period of time, sustaining the drive and getting points out of it one way or another," Deaton said. "In a game like this in the playoffs, that's huge. We were talking about it earlier (Monday). Every play where we gain a few yards in the playoffs, especially in the third round, that's a really successful play. It only gets harder as you advance in the playoffs, especially against CovCath."

The Highlands passing game has seen signs of brilliance in the last couple weeks. Senior quarterback Grady Cramer has completed 161-of-277 passes for 1,989 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Highlands senior wide receiver Nate Roberts leads the Bluebirds with 705 yards on 39 catches and nine touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Austin King has 44 catches for 360 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Hunter Ahlfeld has 27 receptions for 406 yards and six touchdowns.

"We're working on trying to get everything down," Roberts said. "Running routes correctly has been an issue for us all season so constantly repping passing concepts is what we will be doing all week."

The key for Highlands is limiting turnovers. The Bluebirds had three against Anderson County after recording none against Madison Southern.

"When turnovers come in different forms, it can be more than one person involved with that turnover. In the case of a guy fumbling the ball, yes, maybe he should have held onto it tighter," Deaton said.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Fort Thomas Jewelers Renovates Store, to Host Grand Re-Opening and Mega Sale

It's hard to believe that it has been a little over five years since Fort Thomas Jewelers cut the ribbon on their new location on 2780 Alexandria Way in Highland Heights.

They have grown their retail business leaps and bounds since moving into their brand new space and according to manager, Bilinda Benton, it is time to renovate and expand.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Jewelers Opens in Highland Heights (Nov. 2013)

"We're very excited to be able to grow the front of the store and have the opportunity to stay in the same location and keep the work shop in the back," she said.

Benton said that a new floor, chandelier, and busting out a separation wall has allowed the store to be more open to make way for new display cases, a window wall to be able to watch their in-house bench jewelers in the back.

In total they've gained about 180 square feet.


"Our showroom is going to really stand out," she said. "We're so excited for the look of our store to match how advanced our technology and skill levels really are. I personally feel like we are finally going to have the same "mom and pop" attitude and product quality, but now with a much more upscale and sophisticated look."

Vince Keairns, a craftsman by trade, did much of the work himself. 

Benton, along with owners Vince and Renai Keairns are inviting folks to their Grand Reopening and Holiday Trunk Show Celebration on December 7-8.

"We're flying in $1million worth of new inventory from loose diamonds, gemstones, designer jewelry and estate pieces," said Benton. "Now that we have more space for parties like this one, we'll be able to keep up with the demand our customers are allowing us to have."

Fort Thomas Jewelers
Address: 2780 Alexandria Way, Highland Heights, KY 41076
Appointments: ftthomasjewelers.com

Actors Develop Program to Help Veterans Heal at Fort Thomas V.A.

By Alecia Kintner, President & CEO, ArtsWave

Recently, Fifth Third’s SVP and Chief Administrative Officer Teresa Tanner shared how the arts played a role in fostering healing after the horrific mass shooting in the bank’s lobby in September.

Recovery from the trauma began symbolically as Fifth Third’s leadership decided to cover the lobby’s broken glass windows with huge canvas boards. To show solidarity, employees were invited to dip their hands in paint and leave their handprints on the canvases. Hundreds of colorful handprints adorned the space, reminding Fifth Third employees that they are "Fifth Third Strong" and "Cincinnati Strong." This simple activity became a profound and hopeful action, something that brought the company together after an unspeakable loss. It served as a powerful reminder that, as terrible as that day was, they were united in support of one another.

Across the country, art therapy is increasingly used to combat post-traumatic stress disorder. The arts can be a powerfully effective tool: in fact, military servicemembers and veterans rank creative arts therapies in the top five (out of 40) interventions and treatments according to Americans for the Arts.

Across all branches and aspects of military life, the arts promote resilience during pre-deployment, deployment and the reintegration of military servicemembers, veterans, their families and caregivers into communities. The arts can help heal the mental, physical and moral injuries of war — and that same healing potential can hold true for trauma of other kinds.

Locally, the Cincinnati Arts Association has been building an expansive Arts in Healing program. The program trains artists to use music, dance, creative writing and visual arts to facilitate emotional and spiritual healing for area residents experiencing emotional and/or health crises. The program has been developed over the last three years inside Cincinnati Veterans Medical Center-Treatment and Recovery Center, where it conducts literally hundreds of hours of arts-based therapeutic activity. Arts in Healing also partners with TriHealth, UC Medical Center and more recently, Hospice of Cincinnati.

In Fort Thomas, Kentucky, veteran stage actors Justin McCombs and Crystian Wiltshire have developed a program with the local V.A. to address issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries. As part of a supplemental activity for those undergoing a seven-week treatment program, the Veteran’s Shakespeare Project aims to help those who may feel particularly isolated from society to “create ensemble” — to build relationships with those around them.

“As actors, we get trained to trust and connect…in ways that can happen very fast,” says McCombs. McCombs and Wiltshire apply this approach inside the program, coaching vets to discuss and enact dramatic readings of Shakespeare. The process creates new bonds and safe connections that ease and accelerate healing.