Art grad Morehshin Allahyari knows the power of intercultural art projects
Not long after artist Morehshin Allahyari came to the University of Denver from Iran in 2007 for her master’s degree read more…
Not long after artist Morehshin Allahyari came to the University of Denver from Iran in 2007 for her master’s degree in digital media studies, she says she became “uncomfortable and shocked” by people’s perception of her native country.
“[Iran is] more than donkeys in villages, women in hijab, the poor and the angry Muslims chanting, ‘Death to America,’” Allahyari (MA ’09) says.
But she also came to realize something more positive: “I’ve learned American people are very open-minded and willing to listen and learn,” she says. “That makes me want to try harder to present a more balanced view of Iran and the daily life in Iran.”
Much of her time since she arrived in the United States has been spent trying to achieve that balance, using art as her diplomatic tool. Her DU master’s thesis, “IRUS Art” (IRUS as in Iran and the United States), was an intercultural collaborative art show between artists in the two countries.
With help from friends in Iran, Allahyari and an art co-op called the Kinda Collective recruited a team of artists in Tehran and a team in Denver. They chose “dialogue” as their theme and then mailed incomplete artworks back and forth and eventually created a collection of finished pieces that includes paintings, video art, drawings, photographs, software, street art and design.
“I really think the process went great,” says Allahyari, who spoke on the importance of cultural art projects at the 2011 TEDxDU event. “It made all of us realize how we could use art as a global language to humanize each other. I remember how excited all of us were when we got the first works from Iran and realized how close our approaches and perspectives were.”
More recently, Allahyari co-curated another collaboration between Iranian and American artists called “Your Night/My Day” on the nature of the dysfunctional dialogue between Iranian and American governments.