Art, Social Space


Art, Social Space and Public Discourse  is a three-year Stanford global initiative on art that investigates the multiple contexts that shift and define changing ideas of public space. This ongoing critical framework of conversations, newly commissioned art projects, and exploration of various cultural productions and intellectual traditions looks at recent transformations of civic life. This overall project, envisioned and directed by artist Ala Ebtekar, asks what may constitute the architecture, images, and people that shape multiple notions of a “public”.

The first three-day symposium includes talks, panels, newly issued art projects, and lecture performances. The opening ceremony will take place at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on November 3rd with a live-stream from Tomorrow, a traditional coffeehouse in Tehran, Iran. The symposium site shifts to Stanford University on November 4th & 5th continuing the momentum with a series of talks, panels, and additional performances. Simultaneously during the main symposia, there will be auxiliary events and commissioned public artworks across the Stanford campus and larger San Francisco.

Core panels during the first chapter of the project will generate discussion among local and internationally based scholars, and renowned urban artists GhalamDAR, Mehdi Ghadyanloo, and art collective Slavs and Tatars on the socio-political textures of Iranian public space and the widespread history of public engagement in Iran. In addition, project artists will produce new work in direct collaboration with Stanford students across several departments.

In conjunction with the project opening, the Fall 2016 Stanford course Public Space in Iran: Murals, Graffiti, Performance will be offered on Thursdays from 3-4:30pm taught by Ebtekar. This studio practicum will parallel themes of the symposia to explore the traditions of artistic engagement in Iranian public space. The course offers a detailed survey of Iran’s visual culture and contemporary art practices through the investigation of public art strategies and recent cultural expression, in addition to older traditions of performing arts.

This multi-site framework across the Stanford community, Bay Area locations, remote partners, online allies, and anchored through multidisciplinary presenters on the symposia panels will facilitate discussions and questions to hopefully be explored over the next three years.


This initiative is supported by various Stanford departments and programs notably the Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, Department of Art & Art History, Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford Global Studies, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford Arts Office of the Associate Dean, Associate Dean of Humanities & Sciences, Bita Daryabari Endowment for Persian Letters, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Significant Contributions


Ala Ebtekar, Principal

Artist, Researcher and Lecturer in the Department of Art & Art History and Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford University


Ahoo Najafian, Program Manager

Ph.D. Candidate in Religious Studies, Stanford University


Gina Hernandez-Clarke, Program Consultant

Director of Arts in Undergraduate Education at Stanford University


Layla Hashemi, Event Coordinator

Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Global Cultures in the Department of History and Oriental Studies at the University of Bologna, Italy

Special Thanks

Abbas Milani, Roma Parhad and Franco Errico at the Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies at Stanford, Jeff Chang and A-lan Holt from Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford, Alexander Nemerov and the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford, Gabriel Harrison at the Coulter Gallery, Marc Mayer, Deborah Clearwaters and Allyson Wyckoff at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Mishana Hosseinioun and MH Group, Hadi Seif, Ardeshir Salehpour, the entire staff at the Darvaze Ghar coffeehouse, Ellen Oh and Stanford Arts, Homa Delvaray, Amir Esfahani, McKenna Pahl, Kevin B. Chen, Kimberly Verde, Megan Wilson, Dorothy R. Santos, Ali Tahbaz, Jerome Reyes, and Mojdeh Marashi at Blurred Whisper as design and technology advisor.