Skip to main content
NewsPress Releases

Office for Public Art and RethinkVets Announce Boots on the Sound public forums

By April 1, 2022No Comments

Artist residency launches new phase of engagement

Pittsburgh, PA – Office for Public Art (OPA) and RethinkVets today announced Boots on the Sound, a series of public forums exploring issues related to the complex roles that veterans of the armed forces play in American society. The forums are part of the artist in the public realm residency with artist Ricardo iamuuri Robinson and members of the post-9/11 veteran community in the greater Pittsburgh region, launched in 2019.

Boots on the Sound includes three online forums that will be held throughout the month of April. The first Boots on the Sound forum will be held on Thursday, April 7, 2022 from 7:00pm – 8:30pm with Major General (ret) Dennis Laich. MG Laich is the author of Skin in the Game…Poor Kids and Patriots, which examines the relationship between the all-volunteer forces, high debts, and widening class differences. MG Laich retired from the United States Army in 2006 after more than thirty-five years of service.

“OPA’s work is frequently focused on facilitating artists’ collaboration with communities to explore the complex issues that shape public dialogue and our collective understanding,” said Sallyann Kluz, Executive Director for OPA. “The Boots on the Sound forums were developed out of conversation between artist Ricardo Robinson and the members of the RethinkVets team. As a series of dialogues, the forums will explore the complexities of military service and our nation’s collective responsibilities to one another.”

Following the presentation from MG Laich, there will be a panel discussion about the military-civilian divide in regards to the draft and the question of what is one’s duty to their country. This discussion will be moderated by Nick Grimes, Program Coordinator for Amizade. The panelists for this discussion are Ricardo iamuuri Robinson, artist; Megan Andros, Senior Program Officer at The Heinz Endowments; Leonard J. Hammonds II, United States Marine Corps veteran and founder of Hammonds Initiative; Sean F. Tyler, prior service US Army Sergeant in the infantry and Captain (Med. Ret.) in the Medical Service Corps; Karen Sudkamp, Senior Analyst at the RAND Corporation; and Aradhna Oliphant, President and CEO of Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc.

OPA has partnered with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to host each forum in a hybrid format: the panelists will be gathered at 937 Liberty Ave. and their discussion will be live streamed via Zoom. This online event is free to attend; advance registration is required. To register, please visit:

Originally launched in 2019 as an artist residency with Ricardo iamuuri Robinson, the RethinkVets residency has responded to the COVID-19 crisis through new engagement strategies. Robinson redeveloped the engagement phase of the project to include web-based interviews and sound recording workshops. Dubbed Boots on the Sound: COVID-19, the virtual engagement strategy allowed Robinson and local veterans to stay connected and continue to design a final creative project. The three forums will continue this important dialogue while informing Robinson’s creative process, culminating in a public art exhibition to be installed at the 2022 Three Rivers Arts Festival.

The topic of the second online forum will be Race and Gender in the Military. The forum series will end with the topic of Reintegration and what it means for veterans when they return to civilian life.

About the Boots on the Sound Speakers

Major General Dennis Laich

Major General Dennis Laich retired from the United States Army in 2006 after more than thirty-five years service. His last assignment was Commander of the 94th Regional Readiness Command at Fort Devans, Mass. where he commanded all Army Reserve forces in the six New England states. For the last fourteen consecutive years of his career he served in command positions. He has served in Iraq, Kuwait, Germany, the Netherlands, and Honduras. He is a graduate of the Army War College, the Command and General Staff College, and the Program for Senior Executives in National and International Security at Harvard University. His military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. He is a graduate of Lafayette College and holds two masters degrees. He currently serves as the Director of the Patriots Program at Ohio Dominican University and is the author of Skin in the Game….Poor Kids and Patriots.

Nick Grimes

After growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Nick joined the Army in 2003 and served two tours in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. Upon leaving the Army in 2011, he relocated to Pittsburgh with his family. He received his B.S. in Organizational Leadership from Penn State University and has spent the last decade plus working in various aspects of the non-profit sector, from serving meals to home-bound seniors to hosting a podcast focused on the intersection of veterans and social issues and facilitating community conversations around difficult subjects. Nick is currently a program coordinator with Amizade and facilitates Fair Trade, global service learning programs in Italy, Northern Ireland, Poland and Indigenous communities in the U.S.

Ricardo iamuuri Robinson

Ricardo iamuuri Robinson is an interdisciplinary conceptual sound recordist, composer, and visual artist whose work explores acoustic ecologies: a discipline studying the relationship between human beings and their environment, mediated through sound. His work activates and responds to his own personal mantra, “The listener is always the composer.” Humans encounter sound through bias filtrations, navigating the world and its multifaceted harmonics as who they are – through experience and positionality. Sound is site-specific, yet planetary – if not experienced through the ear, then through the hum and resonance in the body. Robinson’s work utilizes his unique knowledge of the medium in order to (re)tell the story of sound. The exposure to sound is mediated through our environmental relations. Each pocket of Earth holds its own soundscape, which exists in an entangled relationship with authoritarian systems that be. Employing research, field recordings, archiving, media archeology, filmmaking, performance art, and creative listening engagements, Robinson invites listeners to cultivate a deeper understanding of the ways in which we inform our sense of place and awareness, while exposing the listener to the sociopolitical dimensions of sound to encourage a heightened engagement with systems of power.

Megan Andros

Megan Andros is a senior program officer at The Heinz Endowments and is responsible for the foundation’s Veterans and Military Families Initiative. Focusing on Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, the initiative aims to improve the reintegration of an estimated 5,200 veterans and their family members who move to the region each year by advancing strategies in five key areas: navigation of services, full employment, leadership, perception change and policy change. Megan, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, served for five years as an ordnance officer in the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division. She graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in international law and systems engineering, and completed a Master of Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College in 2018. Megan is a Veteran Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, which seeks to bring greater innovation, awareness, action, and implementation to veteran policy.

Leonard J. Hammonds II

Leonard Hammonds II is a United States Marine Corps veteran and founder of Hammonds Initiative. He is also a recognized presence in the community for his years of activism, philanthropy, and leadership. He is a 2018 Leadership Pittsburgh CLCV (Community Leadership Course for Veterans) Cohort V graduate, and 2019 Leadership Pittsburgh Lead Now Pittsburgh II Fellow.

Hammonds is the current District Office Director for the 19th Legislative District of Western Pennsylvania. He is also a BMe Campaign Specialist for BMe Community. Hammonds serves on various boards and committees including President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Committee in Pittsburgh, and the Heinz Endowments Just Arts Advisory Committee.

Sean F. Tyler

Sean F. Tyler is a prior service US Army Sergeant in the Infantry as well as a Captain (Med. Ret.) in the Medical Service Corps, with a BS in Exercise Science from the University of Tampa and a Masters of Social Work with a focus in Mental Health from the University of Pittsburgh. Sean served during one combat deployment with the 1st Battalion 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division from October 2006-December 2007. Sean moved to Pittsburgh in January of 2018 to earn his masters at Pitt. From January 2019 – June 2021, Sean served as the Service Platoon Leader for The Mission Continues, Hazelwood Platoon. Sean currently works at the VA of Pittsburgh as a social worker in the HUD-VASH program and case manages veterans who are homeless or previously homeless and assists them in finding and keeping long term housing.

Karen M. Sudkamp

Karen M. Sudkamp is currently a senior analyst at the RAND Corporation, where she conducts research on critical national security policy issues to include terrorism, migration and refugees, and reducing the traumatic impacts of war. Prior to RAND, Karen spent twelve years at the Defense Intelligence Agency as an all-source senior intelligence analyst for Middle East and counterterrorism issues. During this time, she provided intelligence support to all levels of the defense enterprise, from deploying four times in support of active military operations to multiple positions in support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Karen received her B.S. in International Politics from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, her M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, and her MBA and M.A. in Food Studies from Chatham University. She is also a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc.’s Community Leadership Course for Veterans.

Aradhna Oliphant

Aradhna is the President and CEO of a regional leadership institute that has graduated 3,000 informed and engaged leaders from the business and civic sectors and linked them with opportunities to help serve the region on a multitude of boards and commissions. Born and raised in India, Aradhna holds an MBA from Rutgers University and an MA in Psychology from Bhopal University. She received honorary doctorates from two universities: Robert Morris University in 2016 and Waynesburg University in 2017.

Aradhna serves on numerous boards including Chatham University, First Commonwealth Bank, and the Institute of Politics at the University of Pittsburgh. In recognition of her collaborative ability to accomplish complex projects with broad impact she was invited by Pennsylvania’s then Governor-Elect, in 2014, to serve on the statewide committee overseeing the work of the transition teams; by the Chancellor of University of Pittsburgh for the blue ribbon Committee on City-County Effectiveness and Efficiency; and by the Allegheny County Executive as a Commissioner for the County Government Review Commission that is constituted once every ten years. Aradhna’s leadership and work has received recognition over the years including as region’s top “40 Under 40” in 2002, as one of the top 25 most influential people in the region from the Pittsburgh Magazine in 2015, and as an Outstanding CEO by the Business Times in 2018. Also, in 2018 the Institute of Politics at University of Pittsburgh awarded her the prestigious Moe Coleman award for career commitment to service and Syracuse University honored her entrepreneurial spirit in service to military veterans with the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. Aradhna is a past president of the International Women’s Forum of Pittsburgh. She writes and speaks frequently on leadership strategy, regional issues, and talent management including at a recent TEDx Pittsburgh conference.




News from OPA & from the field

Read the latest news from the Office of Public Art and the wider public art field.



Boots on the Sound: Covid-19

This two-year collaborative project by artist Ricardo Robinson is part of the OPA’s Artist Residency in the Public Realm initiative.


Eden Hall Walking & Writing Tour

April 25, 2020, 12–2 p.m.

Writer Sherrie Flick will lead a walking tour throughout Eden Hall’s grounds.


Artists Bridging Social Distance in the Public Realm

March 1, 2020

OPA is seeking proposals from visual and performing artists for projects that aim to bridge the social distance created by efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.