How do you rebuild a sense of community and connection among colleagues after a year of social distancing? This is a question the Staff Council at the UF College of the Arts tackled as they began plans for their first staff retreat in more than a year. As the Council began brainstorming retreat ideas, however, one thing became clear — they did not want another virtual meeting.
“Years ago, someone said that it’s not a retreat if you’re just doing more work,” said Human Resources Director Barb Mitola. “So, we decided to try something different. Since then, our retreats have been a wonderful way to broaden who we are and how we engage – and it does make us better together.”
It was with this spirit in mind that Fiscal Assistant Summer Brady suggested painting a mural. The idea proved popular and soon, the retreat became a college-wide effort.
First to step up was School of Theatre + Dance Company Manager Austin Gresham, who offered use of the wall on the side of the old Leonardo’s 706 building. While usually reserved for educational purposes, the wall became the perfect space for this project.
“Deciding what the mural would be was a cool experience,” recalls Natalie Rella, communications coordinator at the Center for Arts in Medicine. “We sent out a survey with all the options, and I think hands-down almost every single person chose the Zoom look. It really speaks to what we’ve experienced collectively. It was like a nod to that shared experience but with a playful twist.”
This retreat marks the first time in more than a year since staff at the College of the Arts were together in person. And those unable to attend the event — ironically — were able to join via Zoom through two cameras set at opposite ends of the mural.
“It is a privilege to have such strong colleagues as partners in working for the college’s mission,” said College of the Arts Dean Onye Ozuzu. “If you have a chance go see it, the mural is itself a way to perfectly sum up the experience we’ve all just been through, to humanize it and to promote the healing and recovery process that is starting now.”
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