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The Seattle-Havana-Tehran Poster Show

October 5, 2015

The Seattle-Havana-Tehran poster show (or the "SHT show", as its co-curators call it for fun) features over 60 contemporary posters from artists in all three cities; the show opened in Seattle at Bumbershoot 2015.

Feature Image: Curators Daniel Smith and Pepe Menendez at the Seattle-Havana-Tehran Poster Show at Bumbershoot 2015 © Morgen Schuler.

The idea for the three-city poster exchange took root when Seattle-based designer Daniel Smith visited Havana some ten years ago. Smith was there to take part in a show comprised of works by U.S. and Cuban designers. 

“I got to meet curators and designers and saw the work that was happening there,” says Smith. “It was very personal, very raw, and it sort of felt [similar to] what was happening in Seattle.”

Pepe Menéndez is a designer whom Smith met during that first trip to Havana. The two decided to co-curate their first poster show. "I felt like it was important as a citizen to do something, to be engaged with people from other countries and to travel, and especially to places like Cuba," says Smith. The Seattle-Havana show was exhibited at the 2007 Bumbershoot festival at Seattle Center.

“The political situation at the time was part of the impetus,” recalls Smith. However, as the two discovered, despite the contentious relationship between the two countries, putting together a collaborative art show was not too difficult. “No one along the way ever said, ‘Why are you working with the Cubans?’” Travel from the United States to Cuba was allowed for art collaborations. Artists were eager to participate and the show at the Seattle Center was received well by the audience. “It made me realize that we could [continue to] work together and not let complications between our governments slow us down,” says Smith.

Seattle-Havana-Tehran Poster Show Photo © Morgen Schuler.

Seattle-Havana-Tehran Poster Show Photo © Morgen Schuler.

After Seattle, the duo took their poster show back to Havana, where the posters were donated to a museum. “All of the designers from Seattle donated their work [to the museum],” says Smith. "After the first Seattle-Havana show, I decided that that wasn't hard enough, it wasn't difficult enough for me. So, I thought, if I do this again the next year, where can I go that's even more difficult for Americans to go?" 

Smith decided to research graphic design work that was happening in Tehran, Iran. Impressed by what he found, he made arrangements to travel to the city, where he met designer and eventual co-curator Iman Raad. They subsequently coproduced a Seattle-Tehran poster show.

Building on the two previous collaborations, Smith, Menéndez and Raad co-curated the latest Seattle-Havana-Tehran city-to-city poster exchange show.

Seattle-Havana-Tehran Poster Show Photo © Morgen Schuler.

"It's a survey of what's happening in each city, culturally and visually, so it's a great thing to get them all together and say, 'What are we doing that's so similar, and why?'" says Smith.

"For me, and for my colleagues and friends in Havana, this show which has now three parts or three windows, allows us to learn more about Tehran, because it's very far away; it's a differenct culture, different language, different tradition," says Menéndez. "What you are doing is learning more about yourself when you look at the other reality."

The SHT poster show premiered in Seattle in September, 2015, and will travel to Tehran in January 2016 before finishing in Havana in April. Learn more about the project at


Laila Kazmi

@Lailakaz — Laila Kazmi is a Northwest Emmy award-winning senior producer and writer at KCTS 9. Her first love is discovering and telling stories of diverse people, places and history. She has lived in Karachi, Bahrain, Chicago, and Seattle. At KCTS 9, Laila produces the series Borders & Heritage, featuring stories of immigrant and refugee experiences in the Pacific Northwest and has produced Reel NW, featuring independent films from and about the Pacific Northwest. Her video-stories have appeared on KCTS 9PBS NewsHour Art Beat, World Channel at WGBH, and KPBS in San Diego. Her articles have been published in PBS NewsHour Art BeatThe Seattle Times, Seattle PI, COLORLINES and Pakistan’s daily Dawn. Laila has a Master of Communication from the University of Washington.

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Stacey Jenkins

Stacey Jenkins is the managing producer of Spark Public. She is an Emmy-award winning producer who is passionate about pushing the boundaries of digital media and training the next generation of multimedia journalists. Stacey has been a Digital Content Producer at KCTS 9 for the past four years; her stories have been showcased locally on IN Close as well as nationally on SciTech Now and the PBS NewsHour's Art Beat. Stacey’s experience also includes working as a senior producer for KPTS, as an assistant media instructor and producer for Portland Community College and a TV news reporter for the CBC in Canada.

Fun Fact: Stacey’s guilty pleasures include over-the-top Halloween decor, eating sweetened condensed milk straight from the can and Maroon 5’s “Sugar” video.

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