Alma Telibecirevic, one of this year’s nine Hubert H. Humphrey fellows, has found a way to express her year of cultural experience through art.
Telibecirevic came to the Walter Cronkite School from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she studied painting and education at the Classical Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo. Since then, Telibecirevic has spent 10 years working in public relations and marketing. She is currently working as a freelance specialist and organizing cultural events throughout Europe.
“Back home I was really organizing the biggest concerts and biggest festivals,” she said. “And I reached a certain point where I could not gain any more knowledge that way because there was no city or place that I hadn’t worked in or organization that I hadn’t worked with. So I realized that I really needed to move forward and do another step.”
This prompted Telibecirevic to write to the United States Embassy, who referred her to the Walter Cronkite School’s Humphrey Fellowship Program.
Every year the Cronkite School hosts a group of international journalism professionals for a 10-month non-degree program. During their stay, the Fellows live in downtown Phoenix, attend university events and lectures and have the opportunity to network and gain professional development both from Cronkite mentors and faculty as well as national conferences.
“Honestly I applied and did not think that I was going to get it,” Telibecirevic said. “Because only one or two people from every country get it.”
Despite the geographic and cultural diversity of this year’s nine Fellows, Telibecirevic said that they are all similar in the fact that there are not as many opportunities in their home countries as they have found in America.
“We’re all coming from countries where it is not easy to create something. People are not listening to you so much and you have to fight for that,” she said. “And I’m happy that in America people are much more open and if you show interest they really want to listen to you.”
This openness inspired Telibecirevic to expand her American experience beyond professional development and incorporate her passion for and background in art as well.
“When I came here I was thinking, okay, my professional background in public relations is the focus,” she said. “But they give you such a wide field that you can really invest whatever you know.”
In Bosnia, Telibecirevic did a collection of art entitled Symbols Painted in the Sand. She used Bosnian sand to form medieval symbols found on ancient tombs with paint on canvas.
“(Symbols) are so universal, they can communicate with anyone and anywhere,” Telibecirevic said.
Throughout her experiences with the Humphrey Program, Telibecirevic collected sand from various travels including Florida, California, and Kitt Peak in Arizona and decided to create a second volume, this time incorporating Native American symbols.
“I went to the Heard Museum and bought some books on symbols because I actually wanted to learn about them and the symbolism,” she said. “It’s an advantage because it’s something new and something different, but you never know how (people) are going to react for the same reason.”
Telibecirevic’s new collection debuted at an exhibition Wednesday, Feb. 27 at Squash Blossom located downtown. She said she was nervous about how the paintings would fit in the space.
“Once I put them there, I saw they fit perfectly,” she said. “It was actually a very relaxed atmosphere, people are chatting and having a nice time and the paintings were just like good music in the background.”
Telibecirevic’s stay with the program ends this year, and she feels that the program has not only affected her career and her art, but also her life.
“It’s like something in one year you would experience in 10 years of your life,” she said. “What is beautiful is that I’m with eight other professionals from different countries, so it’s not only that I’m learning about America, or America from my country, but from all these other places as well.”
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