WOW mural created by EEA students, Rise Up

WOW mural created by EEA students, Rise Up
Posted on 09/09/2019
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By Naomi Kowles

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW)

"You know, there's darkness, but there's light too."

It's the theme of the newly-dedicated mural, coordinated by Rise Up Central Wisconsin, that covers two walls of the river-facing side of Wausau On the Water and was designed with one goal in mind: bringing healing, transformation and a sense of community through art.

For the students from Enrich Excel Achieve Learning Academy who helped design and paint the mural, many of them attested to that at the dedication on Friday.

"This mural meant making my mark on Wausau, changing lives, and hopefully getting people to overcome and accomplish great difficulties in their life," EEA student Zaikang Kue said. Standing in front of the gathered dedication crowd, he chuckled. "I'm a much more confident person--I'm actually talking right here, right now."

Michaela Marsh, an EEA student who primarily helped with the design portion of the mural, reflected on the challenges of bringing everyone's opinions together and deciding on one project.

"We had a hard time figuring out how much light and dark to put in," she told the crowd. "And then we decided to just kinda transfer over--so you could tell there is darkness, but you know, there is also light."

"Change nothing, and nothing changes," Marsh explained to NewsChannel 7. "It's one of my favorite quotes on here."

The project started at an AOD partnership council meeting in April of 2017, EEA Learning Academy Principal Shannon Young explained. A presentation about using art to heal communities and bring people together inspired members of the Wausau community to start brainstorming what they could do here.

"I had said at that meeting I would love to have some of my students involved in a project like this," Young reflected. "So when they were ready to do the first student-based project...I said 'Absolutely', we would love to be involved in this."

EEA Learning Academy is a small charter school in the Wausau School District, where students opt to learn for a variety of reasons, Young explained. Young believes the school can be misunderstood in the community for various reasons, and that this project can help combat those misconceptions.

"One of the best things was really just to watch my students grow and blossom and really have that opportunity to show what they're capable of," Young explained.

The mural's lead designer, Stefanie Sladky, worked with a number of other volunteer designers and helpers to design the paint-by-number mural, which features participating students, meaningful quotes, floral designs and a signpost of Wausau landmarks.

"What I wanted to portray in this mural was going through something bad, pushing through hard times, and getting to where everything can just be a bit happy," Kue reflected.