One of the attractions of living in the Silicon Valley is the diversity of cultures which are represented here. Certainly kudos must go to the local teachers who are able to accommodate the wide range of cultures and languages in their classrooms. One such teacher is Pantea Karimi, a transplanted Iranian who comes from a family with a long history of practicing and teaching art.
With a grant from the School of Arts & Culture at MHP’s Multicultural Arts Leadership Initiative, Karimi created My Homeland; Students Collaborative Art Project which explores their multicultural identity through hybrid symbols. She led 69 students from schools in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose and built a collaborative wall installation that celebrates and brings together the multicultural youth communities in the South Bay in one visual presentation.
When I ask my students to create an artwork, usually they would revert to their heritage as an opportunity to express that part of them. For instance, Chinese students would often use the color red in their artwork, as a symbol of prosperity. Mexican students would use color at any opportunity to express joy.
This project came out of Karimi’s personal experience teaching. She says, “I take joy in learning about other cultures.” This is something which was familiar to Karimi from an early age. She traveled extensively as a child and was introduced to global perspectives early on by her parents. She also comes from a long line of artists and educators. Her father is an architect, her mother is a teacher, her siblings are designers and architects and of 8 cousins, 6 are artists and/or educators. She says, “Art is valued in Iran.” This art oriented mindset has been advantageous in preparing Karimi for teaching a culturally diverse student body. According to Karimi, this project taught her that all students are equal when it comes to learning art, and students get a chance to learn, explore and express their unique point-of-view.