COMMUNITY VOICES | Meet Lindsay Walz of courageous heARTS

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Get to know Lindsay Walz, the leader of courageous heARTS, Standish-Ericsson’s own arts program for kids. Courageous heARTS opened in 2013 at 4164 Cedar Ave. in Minneapolis. For more information and class schedules, browse http://www.courageous-hearts.org or call 612-729-2483.

– Why did you decide to start this non-profit?
Lindsay Walz: My dream of opening a youth center started when I was still in high school myself when I had the opportunity to be on the founding board of a nonprofit in my hometown community.  The idea ebbed and flowed for many years until 2007, when I was on the 35W bridge when it collapsed.  I nearly drowned in my car (still don’t know how I got out) and while sitting on the bridge “island” waiting for help it occurred to me that the dream I had always carried with me might be the reason I survived.  A few weeks after the collapse, when I was sitting at home with a broken back, I received a community education flyer and found a class called Soul Painting.  That class became a catalyst for my healing over the next 5 years and I knew that my dream had to be rooted in the healing power of art– not for the product, but for the process.  There is another synopsis of this on my website, if you want additional information: http://www.courageous-hearts.org/roots-of-a-dream.html.  

– What is your background?
Walz: I graduated from the U of M in 2005 with my bachelor’s in Family Social Science and minor in Youth Studies.  I recently completed my Master’s of Education in Youth Development Leadership- also at the U.  I have worked at Lutheran Social Service of MN since graduating in 2005.  I first worked at a group home for youth with emotional and behavioral concerns.  After some time away following the bridge collapse, I was rehired with LSS as an Educational Support Advocate for a supportive housing program.  I now supervise the Empowering Students to Achieve program and a team of Educational Support Advocates.  I also participated in the 2012 MN Youth Worker Walkabout Fellowship through the University of MN Extension.

– What will courageous heARTS offer?
Walz: We want to create a safe space for youth to express themselves. We want to be a home away from home and we also want to create meaningful and lasting connections to the surrounding community.  I want to partner with schools and business leaders and city officials to create meaningful opportunities for youth to find connection to the neighborhood.

Classes at courageous heARTS range across a spectrum of expressive arts– from painting and sculpture to music and writing classes.  All are aimed at emphasizing the process of creating rather than the product created.  
“I hope to co-facilitate these classes with mentoring artists who are willing to  share their time, expertise and passion for the arts with the youth who walk through our doors,” said Walz.   

There are two elements of programming that won’t be tied to a particular activity, but rather are integrated into everything we do.  They are restorative practices and a trauma-informed approach.  I am a trained circle keeper and have volunteered for many years with the Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice Partnership as a conference facilitator.  These practices are imperative to building and maintaining community and will be embedded into all our programs.  By taking a trauma-informed approach to our work we will ensure that all of our staff and volunteers understand what trauma is and that it has a pervasive impact on our communities (and I’m not talking about the obvious traumas like a bridge falling down, I’m talking the more everyday traumas such as bullying or community violence). Being trauma-informed helps us to recognize that anyone who walks through our doors might have a heart wound and that we can take pre-cautions to ensure a safe space for all.

– What do you hope to accomplish? What are your 5/10-year goals?
The courageous heARTS vision statement is:  Youth will discover, heal, and strengthen their hearts so they can thrive as active, engaged, and courageous members of the community.

We want to build courage through expressive arts, build community through restorative practices, and build leaders with our Youth Advisory Board.  

It’s hard for me to say what the 5/10 year goals are because I am so steeped in the present.  Every day offers a new opportunity or challenge and it has been the thrill of a lifetime.  My biggest goal right now is to secure operation dollars so this can be my one and only job and we can keep the lights on!  Right now, everything’s purely voluntary– both of my time and my money– but my heart is filled to the brim with all the kindness and positive energy I’ve felt and that makes it all worth it.  I hope that we can eventually offer programming for children and youth from 0-18.

 – Why did you decide to locate the nonprofit at the corner of Cedar and 42nd?
Walz: It was really important to me to stay connected to my own neighborhood (I’m an Ericsson resident).  The power of connection has been a constant theme in my life– from growing up in a town of 250 people, to watching the world stop for everyone the day the bridge fell down. Our connection to one another is vital and I hope that courageous heARTS can serve as glue for this community.

There was a practical reason for my decision as well.  Often times, youth programs seem to concentrate in areas of the city with the most poverty.  This is essential, but having worked for a housing program (It’s All About the Kids) for the past 5 years that actively seeks to move families out of the city’s highest poverty zones, I know that the opportunities for youth living in Standish-Ericsson and other neighborhoods further south are limited.  There is room for more opportunities for youth beyond the public sector (parks, libraries, schools).

– How can neighborhood residents get involved?
Walz: People power will be critical and so will be donations of money, services or materials (http://www.courageous-hearts.org/support-our-work.html). Artists with an interest in teaching a class or helping with a one time project should fill out our volunteer registration form on the website so I can add them to the artist directory.  My hours at the building are somewhat limited right now as I balance a paying job with this work, but if you see me there stop by and say hello– that kind of moral support is the stuff that keeps me going!