In effort to break through stigma associated with present-day Iran, a new student group, Iran's House of Art, held an exhibit Saturday evening in Coffman Union titled "Harmony of Mystic Words."
The exhibit was the first of "Merge" - a series of events designed to introduce students to a more complete Iran by presenting lesser-known elements of Iranian culture such as art, music, literature and personal stories - anthropology and psychology junior Aida Shahghasemi, president of Iran's House of Art, said.
"I feel like there is an unfair portrayal of my country," Shahghasemi said. "I want to portray something that has nothing to do with politics."
"Harmony of Mystic Words" focused mostly on art, displaying Sina Goudarzi's work - a combination of classical and modern calligraphy, Goudarzi said.
Shahghasemi said the group chose art because it "speaks an international language."
Goudarzi, an Iran native who moved to Minnesota in 1994, said he does not intend to impose an image of Iranian culture on anybody with his work, but to give people the opportunity to experience an element of Iran that has nothing to do with politics.
"As an artist, this is my responsibility to create an opportunity," Goudarzi said.
The night also presented a taste of Iranian culture through Iranian desserts and ambient tar music from the Iranian string instrument.
First-year student Kalen Keir said he came to the event because he is interested in cultural studies.
Keri said the word "Iran" has negative connotations in the minds of many University students, and "Harmony of Mystic Words" was a positive step toward portraying a more rounded vision of the country.
"There are beautiful aspects of all cultures," he said. "But some people might not know more than what they just read."
Keri said the intertwining of music and art was a new experience for him.
Rebecca Dahlquist, a Minneapolis College of Art and Design alumna, said although art is an effective way to present Iranian culture, it's not enough for someone to really understand Iran.
To get a solid grasp on Iran, people must actually interact and have conversations with people from the country, she said.
Zohreh Daghighian, a dental hygiene student and Iran's House of Art group officer, emmigrated from Iran in 1981.
In the past 16 years, Daghighian said she has found it difficult to get past some of the stereotypes many Americans have toward Iran.
She said the media looks at Iran from only a political angle, which is not an accurate depiction of the country as a whole.
"You're hearing about the government, and the government doesn't represent the Iranian culture," she said.
Little by little, events like "Harmony of Mystic Words" are bringing the community closer to really understanding Iran, Daghighian said.
Shahghasemi said the next event in the "Merge" series will be in January.