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Vanderbilt, Arts, and the Middle East: Building Bridges to the Global and the Local

The Middle Eastern program for the 2022 calendar year will focus on Middle Eastern themes and issues.  Artists from different disciplines will demonstrate a variety of approaches to visual representation, performance, and graphic design.  The exhibitions that compose the program will be complemented by academic round table discussions which will take place within the didactic visual environments that we establish. Our goal is to raise awareness of the Middle East and connect the university with Middle Eastern communities in the larger Nashville population to enhance and promote the university’s community engagement.

  • Details for events and programs are subject to changes as the calendar year progresses.  Any changes will be reflected in the individual event/program sent out by The Vanderbilt University Department of Art.
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Space 204 Exhibitions

Joint programming with the exhibition:

  • Artist Talk with Emily Jacir
    March 3, 2022 
    2:30PM
    E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center
    Room 220
  • Film Screening: A Letter to a Friend
    March 23, 2022
    E.Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center
    Room 220
    Event announce will be sent out soon.


  • Tennessee Middle Eastern Artists Exhibition
    June 13 – August 25, 2022
    Closing Reception: August 30, 2022
    Organized by Raheleh Filsoofi, Jonathan Rattner, and Qais Assali
    Space 204 Gallery, Department of Art, Vanderbilt University
    Coop Gallery (Nashville, Tennessee)
    Elmahaba Center (outdoor event)


  • Laleh Mehran
    September 8 – October 20, 2022
    Reception: September 13, 2022
    Organized by Raheleh Filsoofi


  • Branding Conflict
    a group design exhibition
    November 3 – December 1, 2022
    Reception: November 3, 2022
    Organized by Qais Assali

Programs and Events

  • Vanishing Point: Past, Present and Future in the Middle East
    panel discussion
    Dates: TBD
    Panelist: TBD
    Organizer: Raheleh Filsoofi
    Moderator: Dr. Anand Taneja
    Location: Robert Penn Warren Center (Vanderbilt University)
    Event Description:
    Faculty from various departments at Vanderbilt University reflect on the future of the Middle East through discussions.


  • Poetry & Prose Readings
    Dates: TBD
    Organizer: Dr. Sheba Karim
    Location: Space 204, E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center, Robert Penn Warren Center (Vanderbilt University), and the Global Education Center (Nashville, Tennessee)
    Event Description:
    Members of the faculty as well as MFA students from the Vanderbilt Creative Writing Program will present readings within Space 204 Gallery reflecting on the themes and narratives present in the exhibitions and events.


  • Listening: The Fourth String
    Raheleh Filsoofi and Reza Filsoofi
    February 21 – March 21, 2022
    exhibition and program components
    Organized by Raheleh Filsoofi and Michael Dickins
    Location: New Gallery, Austin Peay State University  Department of Art + Design Department,(Clarksville, TN)
    Exhibition Description: This project conceptualizes listening and examines the listening experience as a means for change in cultural communication and societal perceptions. It is a collaborative effort between ceramicist and visual artist Raheleh T. Filsoofi and musician Reza Filsoofi consisting of a series of interactive multimedia installations and public performances. Public performances reimagine the silenced existence of the Iranian musician, Moshtagh Ali Shah, and explain his historic contributions to music. The project addresses the concept of sound, suggesting the act of listening can power community engagement, promote social change, and foster a better future. The exhibition will be staged via various events between February 21 – March 21, 2022, at the New Gallery at Austin Peay State University. This project aims to increase the community’s cultural awareness of the local Middle Eastern community and broaden participants’ knowledge and understanding of its ethos.  Four presentations of Middle Eastern music will provide unique educational and performance opportunities for students and the community.
    Additional Events:
    Listening: The Fourth String is a series of interactive multimedia installations and public performances that re-imagine the silenced existence of the Iranian musician, Moshtagh Ali Shah, Died. Dfdj 1206 Hijri Year, and emphasizes his historic contributions to music. The project addresses the concept of sound, suggesting the act of listening can power community engagement, promote social change, and foster a better future. The exhibition will be staged via various events between Feb. 21-March 25 in The New Gallery at Austin Peay State University.
  • There are three components in this exhibition: 
    1) Installation and Performance  
    A Kermani rug that traditionally serves as a gathering place is transformed into a four-string instrument where artists and community members can experience sound and music together. In addition to community participation, local musicians have been invited to collaborate in an experimental performance with this instrument.
    2) An Installation – Artists as Witnesses 
    In a multi-channel video, this installation provides an opportunity for underrepresented artists to collectively come together as witnesses and participants of social change in action. Close-ups of over 30 Middle Eastern musicians peer back at exhibition viewers.
    3) Installation as a Platform for Learning and Engagement 
    This is an educational and interactive installation that allows individuals to sit and play the setar. Three video monitors will provide step-by-step instruction on a few basic strumming and picking techniques.
    These installations, performances, and artists’ lectures intend to broaden participants’ knowledge and understanding of Middle Eastern music and its ethos. It provides unique educational and performance opportunities for the community. The exhibit showcases the dynamic aspects of Middle Eastern music, its capacity to integrate with other musical genres, and the potency of its contribution to the soundscape of the United States.
  • Exhibition Event schedule: 
  • February 24:
    • 12:30 PM – Gallery Talk/Performance, The New Gallery
    • 6 PM. – Artist Lecture, Sundquist 106.
  • March 3: 
    • 12:00 PM – Performance by Reza Filsoofi, The New Gallery
  • March 19: 
    • Nowruz Celebration, The New Gallery. Performance by Reza Filsoofi and Raheleh Filsoofi with special guests Charlie Gilbert and Carlos Duran.

  • Interwoven: Stored Memories
    Monya Nikahd
    March 5 –26, 2022
    Opening Reception: March 5, 2022 from 4PM to 6PM
    COOP Gallery (Nashville TN)
    Event Description: The loom, an ancient ancestor to the computer, attests to the progression of humankind. Comparatively, the art of weaving and the modern computer have existed in society as tools for storytelling and memory storage.
    Monya Nikahd, an Iranian American handweaver, recreates significant rugs from her family, reimagining them from within our modern digital age.
    Interwoven: Stored Memories visually and conceptually merges weaving with different mediums not typically used to modify a work of Craft. The work explores the often ‘combining of realities’ to create a visual of the experiences of the artist’s life living within multiple cultures.
    The opening reception will also feature handwoven projects including collaborative work: Weaving and animation (collaborator, Megan Kelley), and a live performance on the opening night of weaving and music (collaborator, Reza Filsoofi)

  • Middle Eastern Drum Circle
    April – May 2022
    performance, music
    Location: The Global Education Center (Nashville, TN)
    Led by Reza Filsoofi
    Event Description: This event will provide community performance opportunities with a variety of Middle Eastern percussion instruments. By sharing rhythms from various locations in the Middle East, the performances endeavor to promote inclusivity and foster active engagement.

Vanderbilt, Arts, and the Middle East: Building Bridges to the Global and the Local is a program curated by Raheleh Filsoofi, Jonathan Rattner, and Qasi Assali, the members of the Space 204 exhibitions committee (2021-2022). Thank you to the various collaborators, partners, and co-sponsors who are helping plan all events.