By David Stenklyft for Wausau Pilot and Review

Artists young and old, professional and amateur, volunteered and offered a helping hand to the current RISE UP project, a 40’x80’ mural that will be unveiled in early summer 2020.

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All photos by David Stenklyft for Wausau Pilot and Review

The public painting event was held Saturday to contribute to the mural, a continuing series of art to be displayed in the Wausau area. The first was installed at Aspirus Hospital and the second at Wausau on the Water.

The current project, to be placed on the downtown Frontier Building, is a collaboration with North Central Health Care and Lakeside Recovery to reflect the transformation and struggle that takes place when a addicted person enters recovery and the brighter days that are ahead when doing so.

There are a few steps involved in the project. Initially, art is developed for what the finished product should look like. Then, lead artist Stefanie Sladky puts rough color coordinated borders on 144 blocks of canvas for the initial step.

After the initial step is completed, volunteers apply acrylic paint to these blocks before professional artists sharpen up the edges and painted sections. Finally the blocks will be glued to the Frontier Building wall and sealed for finishing.

The theme of the mural is personal for Sladky and for many of the volunteers.

“The imagery depicts the struggle of addiction and recovery,” Sladky said. “I initially volunteered after a suggestion from my recovery coach, and I’ve been here ever since.”

On the left side of the mural it is dark, black and white, with dying flowers, reflective of the darkness of a person in addiction. As the eye travels to the right, there are blooming flowers, colorful hot air balloons as a nod to Balloon Fest, and bright flowers with the fall colors of Rib Mountain in the background.

Alvin, the North Central Healthcare Center therapy dog, also makes an appearance in the mural and will most likely be the most popular image. The people shown holding hands reflect how important social support is for staying with recovery.

RISE UP President Christy Keele has been with the program since the beginning.

The project started in July 2017, mirroring a program in Philadelphia called the Porchlight Project.

“We work with different populations for a period of three to six months,” Keele said. “We use different mediums like portraits, vision boards, music, and poetry. We then collect visions and ideas that are common and desired to the community.”

Keele said Lakeside Recovery has been part of the project since 2018. The title of this project is “I See Color.”

Keele said public painting events help keep the project on schedule.

The next project, in collaboration with the Women’s Community, will be on the north wall at Whitewater Music Hall.