Afra Thais Trobaugh a.k.a. Trobleu
advocate, architect, American mother to an
artiste émergente and an autiste confirmé,
auteur français’ wife and lover of France
My mother first took me to the Art Institute of Chicago when I was in kindergarden. I saw Monet’s Gare St. Lazare and decided that someday I would go to Paris. On the same visit, Degas’ Dancer inspired my desire to be a ballerina. Despite an enduring commitment to the latter, only the first dream came true. During college, a year-long study abroad program in Architecture brought me to France. A life-long love of the Arts (and a French man) brought me back several times. My husband and I settled in Meudon, once home to Rodin, Arp, and many other artists, and close enough to take our children on frequent outings to the cultural capital, Paris.
Adapting our visits to keep my special needs’ son engaged but not overwhelmed by the stimulation, while encouraging my daughter’s curiosity and enthusiasm, took creativity. Each contributed to a different perception of the exhibit, as well the way it could be approached. My work at an architectural firm designing cultural venues kept me traveling and visiting museums across the globe. The dialogue with our clients enhanced my perspective of a cultural institution’s role in community outreach, education and social integration.
My career was interrupted by the necessity to care for our son. During that time I became a strong advocate of rights for people with disabilities, raised funds for research and treatments and co-founded a U.S. nonprofit, CAN: Community Access Naperville, whose mission is to integrate differently-abled young adults into the community. Currently I participate actively in the development of innovative sensory-friendly programs at theaters, concerts and museums, as well as the design of inclusive environments making culture accessible to everyone.
The photo on the cover page “Welcoming Hands” is a sculpture by French artist Louise Bourgeois located in the Tuilerie Gardens near the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The same artist was commissioned to create this sculpture for the Jane Addams Memorial Park in my hometown, Chicago.