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Vol.1, Issue 5, May 2021
Welcome to HRC Monthly!

A short preview of the May newsletter. Please scroll down for an entire list.
  • We bid farewell to the HRC administrative coordinator
  • Upcoming HRC Events: Graduate Mini-Symposium and Open House
  • Faculty SpotlightBizhan Khodabandeh, assistant professor of advertising
  • Visit our multimedia page to watch recordings of past HRC events
  • Community Learning Opportunities: Humanities Events Around Richmond
We bid a fond farewell to Catie-Reagan Palmore, the HRC administrative coordinator, who has accepted a new position outside of VCU. We thank her for her two years of service to the HRC and CHS, her exemplary work and expert production of the HRC monthly in the last semester.
Open House/Listening Session with HRC Faculty
Wednesday, May 12 at 3 p.m.

The HRC invites faculty and graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences to an open house/listening session. Please join us to celebrate the end of a long year and to plan ahead. Bring ideas for events, speakers, working groups, research groups, grants etc., as well as questions. Please enter your name and email on the sign-up form to receive a Zoom link early next week. If you are unable to attend but would like to contribute ideas, please email Cristina Stanciu at Please consider attending this event so you can shape the future of the Humanities at VCU.

RSVP here by Monday, May 10th

Faculty Spotlight:
Bizhan Khodabandeh, Assistant Professor,
The Robertson School

Written by Scott F. Sherman, Associate Professor and Advertising Sequence Coordinator for the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture

While in high school, his interest in design and illustration was sparked by skateboarding, drawing graffiti and reading comics. Years later, the work of Bizhan Khodabandeh, assistant professor in the VCU Robertson School, was driven by other influences:  images of children killed by the US bombing in Afghanistan, and the rise in bigotry towards middle-eastern people. As a result, Bizhan’s work is often socio-political, and he works primarily with non-profit and cultural institutions. Bizhan tells about his work, his perspective and his process.

What are your influences?

For Illustration, my early influences were graffiti artists and comic artists. For design, my early influences were the art direction of skateboard brands and European design agencies.

Many of them were influenced by Modernism, Russian Constructivism, Deconstructivism, and Swiss design.

Now I'm more inspired by creatives that I've personally met. The sharing of ideas and work really drives me to work harder as well as encourages me to pursue new approaches.

What are some of your well-known projects?

“The Little Red Fish” graphic novel was recognized twice by the Society of Illustrators. I interviewed members of leftist guerrilla groups and student organizers that helped overthrow the Shah of Iran during the 1979 revolution. I also read historical texts about events leading up to, during, and shortly after the revolution. This project was a collaboration with the writer, James Moffitt, who also did research on it. We certainly co-created this Orwellian retelling of The Iranian Revolution in the spirit of Animal Farm.

Besides design and illustration work, I co-curated the US and China Typographic Poster Exhibition with professor, Li Xu, who currently teaches in Beijing. This exhibition traveled to 14 locations in the US and China. We donated the collection of 100s posters to the VCU Graphic Design Department.

While a design director at Gallery5, I also co-curated an annual exhibition of political art with Kenneth Yates. This exhibition complemented workshops with a wide range of topics aimed at empowering people. At Gallery5, we also organized monthly documentary film showings and an unfortunately short-lived community library, The Lucent Phoenix.
Other notable projects would be:
- poster for the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI 2015) race in Richmond.
- poster and shirts for the 2015 Richmond Folk Festival.
- poster for the Grammy Award-winning Swedish band, Ghost.
- poster for a lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
- album art for a project by members of Parliament Funkadelic called, Detroit Rising.
- prints and comics in the Library of Congress as part of the Small Press Expo collection.

Tell more about the intersection of your activism and your illustration/design work.

While I feel like I could be doing more these days, many groups I’ve designed for are doing good work. The groups I've worked with include: The Legal Aid Justice Center, The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Vegan Action, Food Not Bombs, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, and Happily Natural Day. I’ve also made political commentary work that’s been exhibited nationally and internationally.

I recently sold prints of an illustration depicting the Robert E. Lee Monument after it was transformed by protests to raise over $3,500 for the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project.

I also contributed to Haawiyat, a comics anthology of Syrian folktales given to Syrian children refugees.

Shortly before quarantine, I collaborated with Brad Perry on a project organizing artists to do one-page comics that responded to songs by his band, Caverns of Pine. It was a music project in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. The exhibition/performance sales would have benefited the collective, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. The exhibition had to be canceled, but we hope to have it in the future.
The most-recent graphic novel I illustrated is “The Day the Klan Came to Town” written by Bill Campbell. It is a fictionalized retelling of a KKK riot/march in 1923 in Carnegie, PA. The group wanted to intimidate a large Catholic immigrant population. The author went to Catholic school in one of the churches where the events took place. The story centers around an Italian immigrant. It will be out in August. Publishers Weekly already listed it on a top 10 summer reading list. Two other publications have done stories on it as well.

The graphic novel has been praised by several rock stars in the comic world who have influenced my work:   

• Nate Powell -- “A fearless, brutal account of American history filtered through one town’s relationship to immigration, identity, and ‘othering.’ The Day the Klan Came to Town lays history bare, making centuries-long connections to today. Vital.”

• Thi Bui -- “A piece of American history in all its ugliness told as an astonishing coming together of misfits to stand up against a common threat. Bill brings an international scope to the history and a concise understanding of politics to the story. Bizhan’s art is dazzling. This is a book for our times.”

• Damian Duffy -- “The creative team brings you into a past where the construction of whiteness was contested, cross-cultural alliances kept the US growing, and the people on the ground reminded those in power that fascism was an unwelcome plague that every real American will stand and fight.”

Last question. What is your process for illustration and design?

My process is to define the problem, gather data, ideate, synthesize, and finally realize the design. Medium and aesthetics are motivated by the problem being solved or context of the client’s institution. I enjoy learning new techniques and shifting to different styles because it helps prevent my career from feeling monotonous.

It’s obvious that Bizhan’s work is far from monotonous. His illustrations and designs are beautiful. But that’s only part of the story. Bizhan tackles hard issues. His activism has an impact on the communities around Richmond and around the globe, making his work equally beautiful and powerful.

Did you miss the HRC's latest speaker series or Meet VCU's Authors event?


Catch up on past event recordings on the HRC multimedia page.

Humanities Events Around Richmond
May 6th
> The Storytellers: Giving Agency to Your Ancestors at the Library of Virginia

May 7th
> Freedom Fridays at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
> Genealogy Virtual Workshop — Portals to a Jewish Heritage: Researching Jewish Genealogy with a Southern Accent at the Library of Virginia

May 8th
>Tim Reid's 5th Annual International Cultural Fashion Showcase

May 11th
In the Beginnin. Virginia, Along the Trail of Enslaved Africans hosted by Elegba Folklore Society
> Native American Art Class at the VMFA
> American Appetite Discussion with Allison Taylor at the Chrysler Museum of Art

May 12th
> Historical Fiction Night Featuring Chanel Cleeton and Kristin Beck at Fountain Bookstore
> Writers Wednesday at James River Writers
> The Global Affairs Program Spring 2021 Colloquium Series "Race and Globalization" at George Mason University

May 13th
> Double Draw Dare with Tom Angleberger and Dub Leffler at Virginia Festival of the Book

May 14th
> Rethinking World Literature: China as Method - "Recovering First Patients: De-Anglophonizing the Pandemic Archive on Sars" at the University of Virginia

May 15th
> Guided House Tour at the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design
> The Black Vegan Experience hosted by the Committee of Consciousness
> Latin Ballet Mistica and River City Poets at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
> Guided House Tour at the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design

May 20th
> Fund Your Book Masterclass: Get Paid to Publish Your Book at Global Book Publishing

May 21st
> May Open House and Artist Reception at Crossroads Art Center

May 22nd
> Would I Lie to You? Mural Walks

May 25th
> The Architecture of Transportation in Washington D.C. at the College of William and Mary

May 26th
> Wonder Wednesdays Livestream at Elegba Folklore Society's Cultural Center

May 28th 
> Walled In at Firehouse Theatre Project

We wish you a restful 
and productive summer!

Would you like to propose an event, workshop,
or working group for the HRC in the future?
Email Cristina Stanciu at
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