My Broadsheet > Arts & Culture > 35W Bridge Survivor Launches Arts Center for Youth

35W Bridge Survivor Launches Arts Center for Youth

Lindsay WalzAfter surviving the 35W bridge collapse, Lindsay Walz found healing through art. Inspired by the transformative power of the creative process, Walz founded courageous heARTS, an arts-based youth center in South Minneapolis with an emphasis on building community, leaders, and courage. On August 1st, the Riverview Theater will be hosting a fundraiser for the Center.

We asked Walz a few questions about the Center, how art and the creative process can help people heal from trauma, and why she thinks that encouraging youth to be courageous is important.

MB: Please tell us a bit about courageous heARTS.
Walz: courageous heARTS is an arts-based youth center located at the intersection of 42nd Street and Cedar Ave in south Minneapolis. Our programming is designed to heal and empower through the use of expressive arts, restorative practices, and leadership development. Our Youth Advisory Board has been meeting since May and is made up of 9 youth from Roosevelt and South High Schools. This group of leaders is heavily involved in the design and implementation of our programs. Our programming will range across the spectrum of expressive arts from visual to performing or language arts and beyond–including whatever creative topics are of interest to the Youth Advisory Board. Our focus is on the process of creating, rather than the product created, and classes will be rooted in our Principles of Process:

Art is about a story, not a skill.
Your story matters.
Dig deep. Be courageous.
Imagination leads to possibility.
There are no mistakes, just opportunities.
Feel from the heART and have fun!

Restorative practices are our final area of focus. Through the Circle process we hope to create inclusive opportunities to build community. By using a talking piece and developing shared values, the Circle shifts the power dynamics of age, race and class–ensuring that all voices are heard and valued. Restorative values will be embedded into our programs, encouraging connection rather than isolation or exclusion.

MB: Is courageous heARTS for all youth? Or will you be primarily working with young people who have experienced trauma in their lives?
Walz: We take a very broad view of the word trauma. Heart aches and breaks are part of the human experience–big or small, obvious or not, these wounds are just as common as skinned knees. We need to have the tools to strengthen our resilience during hard times, just like the bandages and ointment we always keep stocked in the medicine cabinet. As a trauma-informed organization, we strive to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors feels safe and cared for. I like to say that we are inclusive of, rather than exclusive to, youth who have experienced trauma.

Currently our programming is designed for middle and high school students. As we increase our capacity, we hope to broaden programming to serve elementary and pre-school age groups.

Walz' 35w painting

Walz’ 35W bridge painting. Image courtesy of Lindsay Walz.

MB: After the I-35W bridge collapse, art was a major part of your recovery process. What do you think it is about art that can help people work through traumatic experiences?
Walz: There are so many ways that art can be healing. For me, it was about telling my story to myself in new and profound ways and for others it might be about telling a story to the person who views it–either way it’s healing. The first painting I ever did was a great example of this. It started with a brown, ugly river painted across the page. On one side of the river I started painting with gray, black and red– colors that evoked my anger, sadness, and emptiness. As I painted I thought about all of the love and light that had come my way after the collapse and knew those colors weren’t the whole story, so on the other side of the river I painted bright happy colors– my circles of support. At first the sides were separate and very distinct, but as I continued to paint they began to blur together, bright colors joining the dark and gray creeping into the light. The process of creating that painting was much more valuable to me that the final product. I look at it now and remember the story I told myself that day, and it still heals me.

MB: Building courage is one of the components noted on the courageous heARTS website. Why do you think courage is such a necessary skill to teach youth?
Walz: In order to live an authentic life, we need to have courage to live with our whole heart. Like many people, I’m a huge fan of Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability, shame, and resilience. She talks a lot about living into our life with courage and showing up even when it’s risky. Youthood is a time of trial and error–exploring interests, ideas, values, motivations, etc. Peer pressure is at its highest in middle and high school and feeling vulnerable is kind of par for the course. I want young people to find the courage to be who they really are, to say what they really think, and to live out their values in authentic ways. These struggles don’t go away in adulthood and living with courage can help us all live a little truer.

circle time

creative heARTS Youth Advisory Board meeting. Image courtesy of Lindsay Walz.

MB: The tag line for courageous heARTS is “where creativity builds courage.” Can you describe how you see creativity and courage working together?
Walz: As children, creativity seems to ooze out of us. We color and paint, build forts and act out elaborate stories with our friends, both real and imaginary. Somewhere along the way, most of us seem to lose that spark. We start to get messages that art requires skill and ability. Stick figures no longer seem to count and people start to deny their creative spirit because they don’t have the “skill” to be an artist.

Sitting down in front of a blank piece of white paper and beginning… requires courage. Being willing to set aside self-doubt and worries about the end result… requires courage. Allowing our imagination to run free, regardless of whether it makes sense or will be understood by others… requires courage. These acts of creative risk-taking and vulnerability are not earth shaking and (hopefully) won’t break us– but the courage we develop in those moments can translate into other areas of life, when the stakes are higher and it would feel easier to leave the metaphoric page blank.

MB: When do you plan on beginning classes at the heARTS Center?
Walz: Classes will begin in September with the start of the new school year. We don’t have an exact date yet, but hope to announce our fall schedule in early August. The plan is to offer classes on a quarterly basis. Each night of the week will be a different offering, as determined by our Youth Advisory Board. Youth can sign-up for one class or all of them–whatever fits their interests and their schedules. Making classes accessible to everyone is an important goal and we hope to mitigate participation fees as much as we can through grant funding and individual donations. In order to sustain our programs, we plan to create a sliding scale fee or free-will donation process to help offset our costs.

A fundraiser for the Center is going to be hosted at the Riverview Theater August 1st.

MB: How else can people help courageous heARTS be a success?
Walz: We are very excited to have Inocente coming to visit Minneapolis and I hope to see you there! She’s also be joining us on Friday morning at courageous heARTS to help with a spontaneous mural project and the community is invited to participate. Over the next month or so, we will be looking for volunteer Creative Guides and Mentors to help facilitate classes in the fall. In addition to volunteers, we rely on the generosity of individual donors and business sponsors who can provide financial and in-kind support for our work.

Volunteer job descriptions and information about other ways to support heARTS can be found on our website: http://www.courageous-hearts.org/support-our-work.html.

MB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Walz: Our Youth Advisory Board has been working on some concepts for two community-based pubic art projects. These projects will be participatory and will be “popping up” in the Standish or Ericsson neighborhoods in August and September. Follow us on Facebook for a heads up on when and where these projects will be happening. I’m constantly inspired by this group and can’t wait for the community to help them actualize their ideas!

courageous heARTS is located at 4164 Cedar Avenue S., Minneapolis. phone: 612-729-2483.

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