Ten years of the Seattle Iranian Festival / by Misha Zadeh Graham

In 2006, IACA founder Ali Ghambari worked with the fabulous staff of Seattle Center to add the Iranian Festival to their growing list of annual cultural celebrations under the Festál umbrella. I had just had my second baby and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw posters about the event around town. Growing up, the Persian community in the greater Seattle area was quite small, so to think we would now have our very own festival was quite amazing. My second thought was, who puts this on — and why am I not involved?! My family and I went to the festival, which was fun and humble and held in one of the smaller venues at Seattle Center. By the time the second festival had come and gone, I decided that professional level design work would help elevate the festival and not only entice a larger audience to the event, but would attract higher level performers and guests. I approached the IACA with my proposal, and soon found myself as the art director for the festival — not only creating the graphic look and feel of each year's festival — but coming up with the theme the majority of the time.

Design-wise, I've wanted to make each year unique in terms of theme/iconography and color palette. I have selected visuals that are universal or relatable, while still being 'Iranian'. I have managed to throw in second reads and hidden meanings some of the time. Like the rest of my work, the vibe is modern and dramatic with a bold use of color. This helps the artwork stand out in a sea of busy cafe posters clamoring for your attention. You can look through an album of posters with explanations about the meanings on my Facebook Page. Which is your favorite, and why?

By my second year, I introduced a literary component to the festival, and brought on Elliott Bay Book Company to have a prime booth and offer titles by Iranian and Iranian American authors. I also began a tradition of hosting a featured writer each year. My first was Jasmin Darznik. I went on to bring in Anita Amirrezvani, Louisa Shafia, Porochista Khakpour, Hamid Rahmanian and Najmieh Batmanglij. Hosting these talented memoirists / novelists / cookbook writers / artists has truly been a highlight of my life.

This year the festival celebrated it's tenth year. I heard numerous comments about it being the best one yet in terms of the level of performers and guests, food, as well as attendance. In addition to Nahmieh Batmanglij, cookbook author and the guru of Iranian cooking who has appeared on the Martha Stewart show AND recently put together a Norooz dinner at the White House (!!), I was honored to help bring in renowned architect Hossein Amanat to speak about his stunning Azadi monument complex, the subject of this year's poster, which has become a symbol of modern Tehran, and which he designed as a young university graduate back in 1966. He is a living legend, and a truly kind and humble man. What a treat to hear him discuss the conceptual goals behind the piece — which undoubtedly led him to win the nationwide competition to design the monument at such a young age.

Learn more about this (and previous years') festivals on the IACA page.