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Wonders of Persia
First Iranian children's art show in the U.S.

By Maryam Ovissi
March 21, 2000
The Iranian

Wonders of Persia: Art Exhibition, Contest, Persian Dance. Opening: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 6-9 p.m. Ends April 20. Place: The Presidio Alliance Building #563, Presidio Park, San Francisco (end of Lombard Street to Presidio Park's Lombard Gate, first left into Ruger), Contact: (925) 253-1776.

About two years ago, Nazli Irani Monahan had a vision to bring artwork from children in Iran to the International Children's Art Museum (ICAM) in San Francisco. As a volunteer at ICAM, Nazli noticed that artwork from children all over the world was in ICAM's collection, but none from Iran. She decided to spearhead a project to bring children's art from Iran and she did.

During the process of obtaining the work, ICAM closed temporarily and has yet to reopen. Nazli was still determined to realize the first exhibition Iranian children's artwork in the U.S. Her dream is about to come true. The exhibit, "Wonders of Persia", will open from tomorrow until April 20 at The Presidio Alliance Building in San Francisco.

"Wonders of Persia" will be divided according to three age groups (7-10, 11-14, and 15-18 years old). A panel of jurors have been selected to choose the top three in each age group. The jurors are comprised of both Iranians and non-Iranians that have a connection to art and culture, including Mohammed Hourian (artist), Taheri (artist), Julie Wolfe (ICAM), Mahmoud Pirouz and others.

How does one judge children's art?...Well, that is a very difficult question . When the call for art was sent to Iran, there was a specific criteria the work had to meet. The work had to be about Iran and show what the child loves about Iran. Also a photograph and a statement was to be submitted by each child -- a sort of artist's statement.

Nazli described to me the "joy and excitement" she felt when each new package arrived from Iran filled with children's art work. Assistants would gather and "oohh and aahh" each image. Each artwork was submitted perfectly labeled with all the necessary information attached and translated into English. Over 150 works were received and 75 were selected for the exhibit. Nazli has also incorporated artwork by Iranian children in the Bay Area.

The highlight of our interview was Nazli describing the process she had to go through to contact Iranian schools and organizations. She first tried the logical approach, contacting the various schools in Iran directly, but that proved to be fruitless. After much frustration, she decided to go right to the top... to President Khatami.

Now, let's think about this, would we ever consider doing such a thing here in the United States? No way, but Nazli was determined to get this done and sure enough President Khatami responded positively to her letter and had the Center for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (Kanoun Parvaresh Fekri Koudakan va Nojavanan) handle the project and they did, exceeding Nazli's expectations.

Nazli Irani Monahan owns a small publishing company, Arrow Publications, that publishes cultural and art-related books. She is also currently a real eastate agent and has worked about 15 years in the financial field. Arrow Publications is sponsoring the cash prizes.

Nazli demonstrates to all of us the power of determination and will. I hope everyone who reads this article will take the opportunity to join the opening reception and visit the exhibition. The pride and love for Iran demonstrated by the children's art is one that will touch every heart.

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