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Mehrdad Sedaghat Baghbani: Bridging two cultures

Mehrdad Sedaghat Baghbani is a graphic designer, photographer and master's student in the College of Arts & Letters.

Living “in-between” is not easy, but MFA graphic design student Mehrdad Sedaghat Baghbani is using that to his advantage by leveraging his multinational experiences and graphic design background to make the most of living within two vastly different cultures.

Since moving to East Lansing a year and a half ago, Sedaghat has curated an exhibit that brought artwork from his hometown of Mashhad, Iran, to East Lansing. He then turned around and curated another exhibit that displayed the works of Michigan State University graphic design students in Iran.

A third exhibit by Sedaghat, entitled "Pocket Full of Rain," currently is featured at Michigan State University’s Kresge Art Center until December 8. The exhibit is part of Sedaghat’s second-year show and acts as a representation of life in-between.

“The work is about the hybridity experience of living in two countries,” Sedaghat said. “It has roots in the original but tries to be modernized, and the outcome is the reflection you can see in the show. I want to show that the hybridity can be beautiful; it can be amazing; it can sometimes be weird; it can sometimes be funny. It represents me.”

Sedaghat’s first exhibit at Kresge Art Center, entitled "Persian Garden," featured 76 posters created by Iranian graphic design professionals and students. The posters were intended to inform about Middle Eastern culture and the realm of graphic design in Iran.

“People from the Middle East have a rich tradition and a rich history, but because of the media and politics, they are perceived in a very negative way,” Sedaghat said. “So, I decided to bring some of the Iranian artists and their graphic design artwork here.”

The Persian Garden was open February 20 through March 17, 2017. The debut came just a few weeks after the announcement of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on January 27, 2017.

“The show still happened, and it was a great opportunity to show how art and design can bring people together when politics act in the opposite way,” Sedaghat said. "My end plan is to come back to my country and share what I have learned here with the students in Iran, so this was a great way to start doing that.

During the exhibit’s closing reception, Onish Aminelahi, one of Sedaghat’s professors from his undergraduate education in Iran spoke via Skype with attendees about graphic design in the Middle East.

“This was a great moment for me, because before the show everyone here had a lot of questions about me and my background and what it was like studying graphic design in Iran,” Sedaghat said. “The exhibit was a great way to answer everyone’s questions and teach more about my culture.”

Following the success of the "Persian Garden" exhibit, Sedaghat started working on his next exhibit, "Michigan Mashhad," which brought more than 60 posters, typography, videos, infographics and 3-D posters created by MSU Graphic Design students to Radin Art Gallery, Mashhad, Iran.

“Graphic designers in Iran have less access to international sources because of the global sanctions we have there,” Sedaghat said. “I wanted to bring this opportunity to them so they could see how students in the United States work.”

The show, originally scheduled for August 4-9, was extended through August 16 due to its popularity. The opening reception was live-streamed through MSU’s Department of Art, Art History and Design’s Instagram account so that featured MSU artists could experience the moment.

During the exhibit, Sedaghat taught a 7-day 3-D design workshop, sharing his knowledge from his studies at MSU. At the end of the course, MSU professor Kelly Salchow MacArthur skyped into the session to speak with the students and critique their work.

“It was a dream for me to study art and design in a top university and share my knowledge and my experiences to my students,” Sedaghat said. “My end plan is to come back to my country and share what I have learned here with the students in Iran, so this was a great way to start doing that.”