An Ohio University-Pickerington Center adjunct art instructor is the recipient of a prestigious fellowship that will serve to bridge the gap between two very distinct and different cultures.
Liz Trapp teaches art and art history at OU-P. She was recently selected as one of 10 Americans for the Gabr Fellowship, awarded every year to emerging leaders from various professional backgrounds to promote inter-cultural dialogue and collaboration between Egyptians and Americans.
The fellowship is sponsored by the Shafik Gabr Foundation and all recipients are required to be 24 to 35 years old and citizens of the U.S. or Egypt.
"It was such an honor to be one of 10 Americans selected for the fellowship," Trapp said.
"I actually was sure I wasn't selected after the interview process, so an invitation to Egypt came as a surprise," she said.
Ten Egyptian professionals were also selected for the 2014 fellowship.
Every participant spent two weeks in Egypt and two weeks in the United States learning about each others cultures and institutions.
Whereas Trapp said she was awed by her Egyptian trip, it was equally rewarding to see how her Egyptian counterparts viewed this country.
"It was eye-opening to see our country through an Egyptian's eyes," she said.
The fellowship also made her "incredibly aware" of current issues in the Middle East.
"It opened my eyes to the importance of citizen diplomacy as a method of developing communication, compassion and understanding between countries in the 21st century," Trapp said.
As an art and art history teacher, Trapp said she was able to see the impact the exchange of visual culture can have.
"One of the most powerful things I saw in Egypt was the graffiti in Tahir Square in Cairo, which was the site of the 2011 revolution which ousted President Mubarak and the 2013 uprising which ousted President Morsi," Trapp said.
"The imagery was so powerful and raw, it really translated the politicized nature of that site," she said.
"And it acted as a way to visualize some of the revolutionary voices. That's something I will carry on in my own work."
Trapp is also a writer who focuses on art criticism and she has recently started writing about Middle Eastern artists.
"I think it's important to hear their voices, and especially in a time when media really dominates what we know about the Middle East," she said. "It gives us perhaps a more direct lens.
"I also think it's important to use that lens to look at our own community. I believe the arts carry that power and are a great way to start a dialogue."
One way to initiate dialogue is through collaboration, and Trapp is working with her fellows to bring those often unheard voices to the forefront.
During the course of the fellowship, groups of Americans and Egyptians work together to develop a sustainable action project that support the ideals of the fellowship.
"We're still in the formative phases of our action project, but my group, 'the creative hub,' is working on a media campaign to bring the voices of Egyptian and American college and university students together," Trapp said.
"This will be done through a series of short videos we're producing," she said.
Trapp is starting her fifth academic year at OU-P and said she loves "the energy of the classroom."
"I think it's a great way to share ideas, create curiosity, energy and the students often find an issue they're interested in and really get behind it," she said.
Trapp is also an artist, and was featured in the spring 2013 issue of New American Paintings.