Meetings Memo: Artistic Expression

An onsite art exhibit created by attendees.

What do the International Ombudsman Association and Burning Man have in common?

On the surface, not a whole heck of a lot. But after Teresa Ralicki, a former IOA board member and ombuds at the University of Colorado Denver, attended the annual event that celebrates art and community, she was inspired.

“While I was at Burning Man, I was struck by how many different ways there are to express and experience each other’s perspectives,” she says.

Knowing that one of the primary reasons people attend the IOA annual conference is to “connect and empathize over shared experiences and challenges,” Ralicki proposed a new session format that would meet those goals.

Plus, she knew something else about herself and her fellow ombuds. “We have to be incredibly creative,” she says. “We’re working with humans and conflict. There isn’t a formula for that.”

So, she wondered, what would it look like to put that creativity in a physical form? The result: Experience on Display, an onsite art exhibit curated by conference attendees.

Ahead of the 2018 annual meeting, IOA asked attendees to think about a feeling or experience related to their work and to express it in a medium of their choosing, whether photography, sculpture, painting, music, or something else. They could then submit their piece, along with brief description, to the exhibit.

While the exhibit was open for attendees to walk though during the meeting, a special two-hour session was also offered where attendees could network with the artists and connect over their shared experiences.

In 2018, more than 20 attendees submitted artwork—a number that IOA is confident it can increase in the future.

“People really were able to bond from seeing their own experiences and experiences of their colleagues reflected in the art,” Ralicki says. “We’re thrilled we were able to create a mini Burning Man of sorts here at the annual meeting.”

(Witthaya Prasongsin/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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