Meetings

Create Attendee Connections With Art

By / Oct 3, 2019 (diego_cervo/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Attendees often go to conferences to network and get to know each other. Associations can help create even deeper connections with art.

In a recent issue of the magazine, I wrote about an art exhibit that the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) hosted at its annual conference. The idea came from a former board member who had attended Burning Man, an event that celebrates art and community, and was inspired by how many different ways there are to express and experience each other’s perspectives.

Knowing that people often attended the IOA annual conference to connect over shared experiences and that ombuds need to be creative when working with people and conflict, she wondered what it would look like to put that creativity in physical form.

With that in mind, 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 IOA.

The result was Experience on Display, an art exhibit at the meeting. A special two-hour session was offered where attendees could network with the artists and connect over their shared experiences.

IOA isn’t the only association helping conference attendees express themselves with art and use it as a way to connect with others.

Knowing that burnout is increasing among healthcare providers and wanting its attendees to think about wellness and resilience in a more proactive way, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) did two things at its 2018 annual meeting. First, it presented an art exhibit called “Expressions of Clinical Well-Being,” which included resilience-themed artwork created by physicians and curated by the National Academy of Medicine.

But to expand the scope of the exhibit, ASH paired it with an opportunity for participants to engage. Attendees were invited to share their thoughts on “What Keeps Your Heart in Medicine?” and graphic recorders were on hand to help them translate their thoughts into illustrated images. This allowed attendees to learn what other members of the community are doing to take care of themselves while staying true to their medical passion.

Then there’s the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which also hosted an art exhibit at its conference back in June. According to the IASD website, “all of the work was inspired in some fashion by visionary or emotional experiences that occurred during sleep or from dream-related inspirations.” The exhibit included photography, painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, ceramics, video, and installation art.

At a reception, the artists shared and explained their works to anyone from the conference who had questions, was interested in particular pieces, or wished to understand an artist’s process.

What I like about all of these examples is that they allowed people in their respective industries to showcase talent and creativity that they might not express in their everyday jobs. And at the same time, these exhibits provided easy ways for attendees to connect.

Has your association used art onsite at a conference or event? Tell us about it in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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