ST. LUCIE COUNTY – It was 2017, and Cindy Bridges asked a few of her talented friends to get together and find a way to give back to the children of the Fort Pierce community. What came of their collaboration was the Lindsay School of the Arts, a living tribute to Ms. Bridges closest childhood friend, Lindsay, who had passed away after a brief but purposeful life. Lindsay had been born with heart issues and endured 3 open heart surgeries before age 12. Her lifelong dream was to be a nurse and to work with the doctors and nurses at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, where she had received care as a child heart patient. She was able to fulfill that dream and was working at Shands when she passed away suddenly due to a brain aneurysm. She was just 21.
Ms. Bridges, founder and executive director of the Lindsay School, explains that although Lindsay was unable to play sports due to medication related to her mechanical heart valve, she was a dancer and had even organized dance marathons during her time in Gainesville. So, the arts school that bears her name naturally features dance, but also drama, music, art, creative writing and production.
The program began with six classes per week serving about 60 children ages 8 to 18 from underserved communities. It did not take long for Ms. Bridges and her colleagues to realize there was a huge need for this sort of program in the St. Lucie County area. She explains that arts education tends to be cost prohibitive for many lower income families, especially so for families with multiple children.
The idea of the Lindsay School of the Arts (LSA) was to provide a safe and supportive environment for underprivileged kids to express themselves artistically in creatively positive ways. Classes were free for any child whose family was unable to pay, putting arts education on a more level playing field. Funding sources have included the Children’s Service Council of St. Lucie County, the Community Foundation for Martin-St. Lucie, as well as grants and private donations.
The school now offers 44 classes a week and serves over 400 children, ages 1 to 18, as well as several adults.
Though all classes are free or low cost, the programs offered by LSA are of as good a quality as one might expect to find in a higher-cost arts organization.
In addition to the regular classes, the school has been offering summer camps since their first year in existence. They are now up to four different camps in various locations across the Treasure Coast, and this year alone are offering arts and music to over 120 students ages 5 and up.
One of the struggles facing the school currently is that they are serving about three times as many students as their funding covers and doing so in a physically limiting space. Ms. Bridges explains that as the kids get older, the school does what it can to keep them in the program and grow with them.
Lindsay School is making good headway with renovating the old St. Anastasia School building on Orange Avenue, though funding for the project is still desperately needed. They are about $2.1 million shy of making the building their permanent home, a space in which they could accommodate many more students comfortably and featuring public spaces that would provide sustainable sources of funding such as exhibit spaces, venue rental, and even a theatre. Classroom spaces for the children would be in an area separate from the rest of the building and closed off to the public.
Ms. Bridges explains that the need for arts programs like this in underserved communities is only growing, and she is deeply disappointed that children are being turned away, even children who have attended the Lindsay School program in previous years. About 90 returning students could not be accepted due to limits of space and funding. Additionally, a waiting list of about 265 children were also unable to be accommodated. These ever-swelling numbers clearly illustrate the need for additional funding and for the larger space that the St. Anastasia building would provide as a permanent home for the school.
To find out more about the Lindsay School of the Arts or their upcoming events, visit their website at https://www.thelindsayschoolofthearts.com/. You can also find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheLindsaySchoolOfTheArts, or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/thelindsayschoolofthearts/.
To find out how to donate time, materials or funds, you can reach them by email at email@example.com.
Donations may also be sent to the school directly. The address is 1717 Orange Ave., Ste. 4225, Fort Pierce, FL. 34948