by Dan Colton
for The Beacon
The Above and Beyond Children’s Museum in Sheboygan unveiled Thursday a new mural and a slate of initiatives aimed at supporting the mental wellbeing of kids and the community.
The eye-catching mural, painted by local artist Jessica Rassel, graces the museum’s three-story north wall on N. 8th Street in Sheboygan. It depicts a mother whale and calf diving into deep blue water below a sky colored pink by the sun and clouds.
The museum said the mural “anchors” the new mental-health initiative, referred to as The Happiness Project, which includes several programs aimed at supporting the mental health of children and their communities.
The Happiness Project is being conducted with the help of area partners, including Mental Health America, Jake’s Café Creative Community, and Sheboygan Area School District’s Innovative Fellowship Program.
Sheboygan North High School’s 2020 valedictorian Maddie Green led the initiative through the Innovative Fellowship Program.
“Happiness is my passion,” said Green in a press release. “It is a lifestyle, a community and an inner foundation of all human kind. The Happiness Project movement is designed to change the often negative stigma surrounding mental health. Whether one is diagnosed with a mental disorder or just struggles with everyday life stressors, everyone needs a reminder that there is happiness and light within each and every one of us. Together we can help individuals find the beauty, light and happiness within themselves.”
As part of the program, a host of new offerings at the museum kicks off July 8. The museum announced the adjacent community garden will hold wellness programming including yoga, meditation and tai chi.
Virtual and in-person summer camps will offer kids the chance to explore the world and themselves, all while keeping social distancing in mind.
Additionally, businesses along 8th Street are being encouraged to decorate their windows and storefronts in inspiring ways.
Thursday’s unveiling included a ribbon-cutting and addresses from Green and Rassel, the mural’s painter.
“I hope this mural reflects your brightness as you navigate your depths,” Rassel said at the unveiling.
Green, whose senior year was interrupted by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, said the trials of 2020 made the mural and The Wellness Project especially poignant.
“I don’t believe it’s a coincidence the mural was completed in the midst of a pandemic,” Green said during the event. “…I believe this is a sign the world needs more color.”
The museum said financial support for the project was provided by The Efroymson Family, Dave & Sandy Sachse, Just Kids Dental, Lawrence and Kathleen Gentine, Tryg and Ann Marie Jacobson, Terry Kohler Family Foundation, Active8, and various other donors. Other donors requested anonymity.
The museum’s initial goal was to raise $50,000, and that mark was surpassed by raising a total of $62,000.
Materials, equipment and paint for the mural were donated by Sherwin Williams Paint Store Manager Brent Dekker, according to the museum. Scaffolding and other equipment was donated by Scotty Marquardt of Moraine Builders of Sheboygan Falls.
For those wishing to donate to The Happiness Project, visit http://www.abkids.org or call (920) 458-4263, or send posted mail to Above & Beyond Children’s Museum, Attn: The Happiness Project, 902 N. 8th Street, Sheboygan, WI 53081.