The best thing about being in a touring band is having the opportunity to experience a wide variety of places and cultures. Our music takes us to big cities across the globe, thousands of miles from home, from Santiago, Chile, to Stuttgart, Germany. My favorites are the ones that are friendly to a walking lifestyle—because it promotes good health—and that contain parks and public art and music to improve the quality of life of the residents and the experience of visitors. But the oldest and biggest cities are also often the most congested and polluted. And over time, public spaces, where the people of the community can interact and discover something new, are losing ground to industry and over-development. What can we do to reverse this trend and keep cities vibrant and pleasant?

Capital Citis asks: How can we integrate more free, public art and music and open, natural spaces into urban areas?

Leila Sajjadi answers:
Tehran has witnessed an almost unbearable growth in the past decade, but this growth has happened in a city without great resources. I am not sure if Tehran today has such a defined sense of public space due to all sorts of reasons, but the whole city is still desperately in need of cultural and artistic intervention.

I think engaging the public with art and culture within the texture of this city is a vital tool to boost a positive energy that this place desperately needs. To do this in Tehran you need to be passionate about the people. The arts here are given hardly any financial or institutional support for free, public events. In my view, the necessity of having such events is not paid enough attention.

But in a sense, I believe all the limitations in Tehran have given the artists a perfect platform to work on; whatever you do here would be an experiment, every idea is fresh, but the results are seen as vague. You must be creative enough to convince both the public and the authorities. I find it to be a perfect challenge.

The idea of creative urban intervention is becoming more and more of a focal point within the community of artists and creative thinkers in Tehran. The Noir group, for example, is focused on environmental performance, reviving unusual senses of place. They have used parking lots, mixed use buildings and Tehran’s main squares to engage with the public.
Neda Razavipour is a conceptual artist—but with specific focus on public art. Years ago, she and Shahab Fotouhi used a building under construction to display their installation, mounting large images of random people inside the windows for drivers on the highway to see. This, perhaps, remains my personal favorite public installation ever done in Tehran.

We at Urban Art House also work with a great range of people and artists trying to link the everyday lives of people here with art and culture and to introduce our city as an art platform full of opportunities. In UAH’s promotional video, made by young artist Aliyar Rasti, the city itself is looked at as a piece of art.

So, I think there is no “HOW?” in Tehran. Here, you just have to have the courage and energy to get out there and give the city what it needs, because you may not find the right flawless channel to act through—well, at least not in the very near future.