KEYC - Bridge Collapse Survivor Turning to Art

Bridge Collapse Survivor Turning to Art

An area survivor of the 35 W bridge collapse has been coping with the stress of the accident in a different way.

Lake Lillian native Lindsay Walz has been using art to express her emotions.

Walz started dreaming of creating her own youth center when she was 16 years old.

She went to school to specifically get into a field of working with youth, then on her way home from her job with at risk youth on August 1st of 2007, the unimaginable happened. The 35-W bridge collapsed, and with it, her dreams of that youth center...or so she thought.

"It actually crossed my mind that day when I was sitting on the bridge, waiting for help to arrive, and I thought about why I was still alive and wondered if maybe I had a mission that hadn't been completed yet."

Months of rehabilitation helped get Lindsay back toward being healthy physically, but the mental impact of the incident kept her from even being able to shower without fear of the water.

Then Walz found a flyer for a class called "Soul Painting," a class not about technique, just about doing the work.

With relatives that had used art to heal from traumatic events in their lives, Lindsay decided to go to the class ready to heal and to paint what she was going through internally on paper, and even her own back–brace after she had physically recovered.

Three years after the collapse Lindsay started thinking about her dream job once again, and with the new component of art in her life, she started the plans for Courageous heARTS to become a reality.

"To me healing is all about courage, so Courageous heARTS is a space where kids get to develop courage and that might mean trying out a new art skill that they don't feel comfortable with or they think they're not an artist, because they only draw stick figures...I've heard that more than once...where they just get to try new things and explore who they are, and hopefully build a strong heart in the process," Walz says.

Since August, she's taught kids that it is all about the process and not the end result through arts such as painting, beading, music, and even yoga.

Letting the kids know that it is not about a skill, it's about a story.

"Really just wanting to give them that place and that space to have a different way to cope, and a different way to heal if they need to," she says.

"I found it really comfortable to do things here, and I didn't feel like I was being judged at all, and I thought it was easy for me to express myself in a way that I thought was right," Student and Youth Advisory Board member Larry Whiten says.

The philosophies of Courageous heARTS made it easy for Lindsay to attract volunteers to help the fledgling organization, and fulfill others' dreams as well, all through the joy of creation.

 "We facilitate healing naturally.  It just happens.  And to be able to do that with kids and with a kid–centered, kid–driven agency...it's like a dream come true," says Volunteer creative guide Amanda Zagelbaum. 

Courageous heARTS is still in its infancy but is gaining national attention for the work they're doing with art, and the guidance they're providing.

The Arts and Healing Network recognize people around the world annually who either personally experienced the healing power of art, or are giving that experience to other people with a five thousand dollar grant with their "Honoring the Next Generation Award".

After just a handful of months being up and running, Walz's story and contributions earned her the distinction already.

The grant money is welcomed, too, as Courageous heARTS is on a shoestring budget at this point.

But her volunteers see Walz's efforts, and are giving her all the support they can.

 "Lindsay has more drive, more commitment, more authenticity than almost anyone that I know.  She puts her mind to it, and she does it.  So she has single handedly been the founder...been the janitor...she's done everything,"explains creative guide Liba Zweigebaum–Herman.

Survivor's guilt haunted Lindsay for months, but she says this project isn't just for her. It's for the 13 people that DIDN'T survive that August Day.

Walz says, "For me...this is about them...as much as it is about my own life and my own dream, it's about living every day to the fullest and just living it out as much as you possibly can, that's the biggest lesson that the bridge taught me was just to live, and to know that I can have other people to live for too and that their lives are not lost and that their memory can live forward in this as well...even though I didn't get the good fortune to know them."

And now that dream will continue to keep the next generation dreaming. 

Walz says she wants to make Courageous Hearts her full-time job and wants to pay instructors in the future.

She says if that happens and the organization is viewed by the community as a good thing, she will be a happy camper.