A new event aims to ease COVID’s emotional toll through art and music


B.C. Kowalski/City Pages

The Moving Experience aims to help folks heal from the emotional toll of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has proven to be a dividing line, pitting family members against each other, ending friendships and making everyone psychologically miserable. At least we can all agree on that. 

It bothered Dr. Edwin Stanley too. A radiologist with Aspirus, he wanted to do something to address the last part: the emotional and psychological toll that the pandemic has wrought on the minds of central Wisconsin. 

Things kind of snowballed from there. And that’s a good thing. 

Stanley and a team he’s put together will host an event called The Moving Experience. In it, he’s bringing together artists, musicians, psychologists and others to help people through the emotional trauma of COVID. 

The Moving Experience will take place May 13-16 at Thrive Church on Grand Avenue in Wausau. 

The title, The Moving Experience, is a double entendre by the way. It’s meant to be moving in the emotional sense, but also literally moving – participants will move from one room to another, experiencing the art and music as they go. Along the way, armed with a notebook to record their journey and their thoughts and emotions as they go. 

“The goal was not to do something to stimulate people in the wrong sense,” Stanley says. “We wanted to think about the right way to help people talk about their emotions.” 

The final room will feature mental health professionals who will be on hand to talk to people about what they’re experiencing. 

Although the idea for the event came from a religious concept – the journey to the cross as part of his church’s Easter tradition – Stanley is careful to point out that the event is strictly non-religious as they wanted it to be inviting to everyone. The church itself doesn’t have much religious imagery in its decor, he says, and they asked there not be any religious artworks submitted. 

“We wanted to make sure everyone who comes doesn’t feel like it’s religious, or one side or the other,” Stanley says. 

Artist Stephanie Kohli says when she got a call from Stanley about the event, she was on board immediately. As an artist herself, she knew how powerful the healing potential of art could be. It had gotten her through the early days of the pandemic, she told City Pages. “I think art has kept me sane,” Kohli says. “When I’m painting or doing anything creative, I don’t think about anything negative. I just push it out of my mind.” 

Kohli says art has helped her so much that she wants to help give back. Her involvement in Rise Up was motivated similarly. 

Stefanie Sladky is in a graduate program for clinical mental health and also an artist. She says there ara a lot of emotions around COVID-19, such as anger, or just plain being sick of hearing about COVID-19. “I’m hoping this is a space where they won’t have to stare COVID in the face, but instead it’s more of a healing space,” Sladky told City Pages. “They can look at parts of the exhibit to process those feelings.” 

Find “The Moving Experience” on Facebook