Shahrooz Shekaraubi will tell you that his passion and work comes from the influence of his brother being a multifaceted artist. “He’s a painter, musician and a poet,” Shekaraubi says. “It is because of him that I developed a strong passion and interest of Persian literature and that became my voice.”
Shahrooz Shekaraubi is the founder of the Aftab Committee. Its mission is to support Iranian-American artists and promote their works. “Whether its art exhibits, comedy shows or concerts, we inspire artists to use their works to build bridges and connect with other cultures,” Shekaraubi says.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Shekaraubi was raised in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. He remembers growing up in Manassas, Virginia attending high school where students looked at him as being ‘exotic’. “They were intrigued and interested in Iraq, in that region and even though I am from Iran, I would try to answer to my best ability their questions to help educate them,” he says.
After graduating from high school, Shekaraubi attended the University of Maryland. He is one of the first students to graduate with an undergraduate degree in Persian Studies. His master’s degree is in Middle Eastern Studies from Lund University, Sweden.
Connecting with people from other cultures Shekaraubi says is important. And when other Iranian artist come to the United States, the Aftab Committee advises them to get to know and befriend Americans, because that is a good way to adapt as well as gain exposure as a new artist.
With over 200 Iranian artists in its database, the Aftab Committee receives waves of people outside the Iranian American community that are interested in learning about its artist as well as collaborating with them.
“One event I am very proud of is our collaboration with Prizm art fair which is the largest African diaspora festival located in Miami, Florida,” he says. “This was an opportunity for the Iranian American community and the African American community to see each other, talk and learn about each other through art, which I think is the best tool to bring people together.”
Shahrooz Shekaraubi has also opened an art gallery in Yerevan, Armenia. He says the gallery will be an art hub for countries in the region.
“I want to be a curator bringing artist from other countries there as well to the United States,” he says.
Aftab in Persian means sunlight and Shahrooz says the inspiration behind the name of the organization is just like its meaning. “It doesn't really directly interfere with the growth of what it's helping to grow, but it's a source for positivity and growth and creativity.”
Shahrooz Shekaraubi says the nonprofit organization has also helped him to grow and maintain a healthy relationship with diverse people which is what he and the Aftab committee is all about.