Leah Potts was three months out of college and interviewing for graphic design jobs in Boulder, Colorado, when she was in a life-changing skiing accident that left her instantly paralyzed from the neck down. At 23 years old, she was confronted with no use of her hands or legs. The doctors gave her little hope for improvement, telling her that she would never walk, hug, or draw again. Upon hearing these words, Leah became determined to overcome and to heal. Seventeen years after her accident, Leah not only walks again with the assistance of a cane, she also teaches spinning classes to able bodied athletes, travels the world, cooks, and enjoys outdoor activities such as scuba, horseback riding, and skiing. And now, finally, Leah is making art again.
Leah says that after her skiing accident, healing demanded all of her focus, and she did not have the energy or ability to create art. Through her difficult road to recovery, one that required self-discipline, patience, and desire, Leah has regained the physical and spiritual strength to return to her artistic roots. “Now I have the desire to do art again,” she says.
This rekindled hunger to create brought Leah to the Art Base, where she enrolled for two weeks of the Painting In All Media workshop with Meridy Volz. After completing the first week of class, Leah says that it was an “exhausting and exciting week” that has proven to be an emotional experience for her and her family. Upon hearing that she was enrolled in an art class, many loved ones called Leah to celebrate this brave new step she has taken in her healing journey.
Leah met many challenges while learning to draw again. Before her accident, Leah was right handed. However, after regaining better use of her left hand during her recovery, she had to learn to write again using her non-dominant hand. At first, she had difficulty applying enough pressure to produce a mark on the page. She doubted that she would ever create the same quality of line that she once drew. Now, she can write with both hands with equal agility. While taking Meridy Volz’ class, Leah found that she can also create the beautiful, fluid lines she drew before her accident.
The first day of class intimidated Leah. “I was ready to run,” she says. “I was completely out of my comfort zone and afraid.” However, after receiving personal attention from Meridy, Leah feels ready to confront her fears and push herself to learn how to work her hand and brain together again. During the two weeklong classes at the Art Base, Leah produced portrait drawings featuring electric colors and sophisticated line work. In addition to creating art for the first time in seventeen years, Leah also formed friendships with classmates and found her place within Basalt’s artistic community.
Leah’s experience at the Art Base has given her a renewed sense of expressive freedom that she feels will push her further on her healing journey. “I think this is going to help my healing process because there’s so much stored emotion inside me.” After her first week of class, Leah feels eager to continue creating art and developing relationships she formed with other artists. “I feel like [art] is calling me again and I want to do more. I want to be at the Art Base. I feel supported and there’s community here. That feels like a real gift.”
Being a role model for others who face challenging obstacles is a goal that guides Leah’s life. She says she hopes her triumphant return to art, and her ability to relearn how to create strong lines on the page, inspires others to overcome obstacles and move towards their goals. “Figuring out an alternative such as using your non-dominant hand can set you free. Don’t let anything stop you.”
Read more about Leah Potts on her website, www.motivatedwellness.com.