Header courtesy of Zeeshan Farooq; Photos in slider courtesy of Stefanie Kljucaric
Scripting an Arts Business
Zeeshan Farooq, ’13, combines his lifelong love of calligraphy with management skills to produce art and communicate faith.
- October 24, 2022
- Media, Entertainment, and Sports
He works with clients to learn what they want in their home, then delivers that work with style and flair. He says this element of custom artwork design makes him a “product artist” at his day job, where he listens to customers talk about pain points and creates digital solutions to solve their problems. Farooq hosted his first art booth at an Islamic festival in Chicago in 2011. At the time, his calligraphy veered toward pinks, purples, greens, and yellows. It was different from the silvers and blacks, or golds and blacks, of many Arabic and Islamic art products, and so attracted attention from young Muslims who appreciated the more vibrant themes.
He also likes to reach audiences who aren’t Muslim themselves but appreciate the beauty of his work. His first art commission was from a non-Muslim coworker who wanted Arabic script displayed at home and asked Farooq to choose the topic. He picked “Read, in the name of your Lord, who created,” quoting the introduction of the Qur’an. Essentially, it says to “seek education and depth before taking a path,” adds Farooq.
In another instance, he was invited in 2019 to create a piece for the 2019–21 show American Medina: Stories of Muslim Chicago at the Chicago History Museum.
“I was jumping up and down with the opportunity. I was pretty excited,” says Farooq, whose finished piece involved seven stacked pieces of wood and intricate writing. The message read: “Thanks to Allah.”
“We all understand this concept of being grateful for your health, the weather, for something,” he says on the theme he chose. “We all believe something in common.”
His art also brings him in contact with fellow handwriting enthusiasts. He’s a member of the Chicago Calligraphy Collective, and has shown his work in two of the collective’s annual, juried exhibitions. “When you meet like-minded people, you continue learning from them,” he says. “That helps keep my passion fresh.”
In his effort to promote handwriting, Farooq visits schools and mosques in Chicago, reaching out to kids who may no longer learn script writing in their classes and “are moving away from paper and pen.” And with his three young children, Farooq makes an effort to write an Arabic letter each day in calligraphic script. “I’m trying to make sure this art form survives in a time of devices.”
Through his own work and effort to keep the art alive, Farooq joins a rich history. “A lot of creative ideas have been produced over centuries,” says Farooq. “I’m just a little piece of it.”