A Call for Your Experience

By Teresa Ralicki, Ombuds, University of Colorado Denver

Seeing shredded confidential material from another ombuds office, right in my face, as if to taunt me. Hearing about what it means for a colleague to sketch portraits. Feeling the impact of helping visitor after visitor through a photograph. These were profound experiences for me as I walked around the pop-up art gallery, Experience: On Display, at the IOA conference last year.

Let me backup a bit and share the story of this session’s inception. My first IOA conference was in 2012. I had been an ombuds for almost a year at that point. I was eager to be involved and to become part of the IOA fabric. It felt so good to be a part of this profession after years of struggling to find my way in the conflict resolution job world. Not only had I found a job that I loved, I was brought into the IOA community -- one that shared ideas, offered opportunities for growth and mentorship and, as I quickly came to observe, harbored a boatload of creative talent.

After multiple other conferences and even more botched ideas, and after a trip to Burning Man in 2017, I had an idea that I thought could take off. What if we hosted an exhibit where participants of the IOA conference could bring a piece of work that expresses their experience in this profession? Whether it is what visitors go through or how ombuds engage in self-care, this could offer an additional way for participants to connect with each other beyond conference room discussions and ballroom panels.

Out of this came Experience: On Display. I roped in Adam Barak Kleinberger, a fellow ombuds and creative, to help me execute my idea. In 2018 we held our first pop-up art show at the IOA conference. 10 contributors brought their pieces to the conference and we set it up as a gallery for conference-goers to experience. We also conducted an informal discussion or “Artists’ Talk” where viewers and the artists could engage with each other directly. The gallery and engagement were a hit. Some of the pieces were offered in the raffle for participants to take back to their offices or homes. 

 We are happy to say that Experience: On Display will pop up again this year in New Orleans! All we need is you - and your creativity. This can look like anything -- a doodle, a poem, a video short, a song, a sketch... simply an expression of your experience.

To be clear - we are not seeking “artists.” We are seeking expressions of experiences. This is about the process of creating something and the connection that it can spark among our peers.

If you are interested in learning more or offering an expression, check out our call for art.

Review Call for Art

 Special thanks to those who contributed last year:

  • Caroline Adams
  • Joanne Dea
  • Katja De Groot
  • Scott Deyo
  • Adam Barak Kleinberger
  • C. Mckenna Lang
  • Jon Lee
  • Francine Montemurro
  • Teresa Ralicki
  • Unnamed Artist

*For another opportunity to try out ombuds skills using improv techniques and a fictional world, check out our session, Fairytale Fish Bowl.  

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