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The thing about day to day life is that, often, the older you get, the further away you drift from your dreams, as the exigencies of living take over. Yet here I am, at 51, living my dream of attending the Royal College of Art, and doing my Master’s. It’s been a helluva journey to get here, but my position is still tenuous, as I must urgently raise additional funds to pay towards my tuition fees for this term, or risk being barred from attending class. This, after my wife and I have held garage sales, art sales, sold cars, moved out of our home and done everything in our power to raise as much money as we can to pay for this course. This is why I am asking for your help to pay my school fees. It’s not a request I take lightly – I have thought long and hard about running a crowdfunding campaign to pay for my fees – it’s not easy to ask for help. But I promise to continue to strive and push myself as hard as I can, not just for me, but in recognition and gratitude for all the support I receive during this campaign. Every penny I raise will go towards paying my tuition.

A little more about me

I have been working as a graphic designer for nearly 30 years now, having started work with the National AIDS Campaign in my mid-twenties, as soon as I graduated from college, and then continuing in advertising and editorial design up to today. I have loved design, and loved advertising, but about ten years ago I discovered a longing to make art – to express my individual voice beyond the world of client-centric work. I participated in a group exhibition – the Radical Jeans Art Project – and almost immediately, the way I thought about the world around me and my place in it began to change. I started to make art on a regular basis, whilst maintaining my design career. I became a co-creator of Erotic Art Week and the publisher of the Draconian Switch Magazine (an online space where the work of Caribbean creative people could be organised and shared) and I also become a network collaborator in Alice Yard.

At first, I thought I was just playing in art – experimenting and challenging myself. But gradually, the idea of play faded away, whilst the reality of building a working art practice took over. I have been intensely making and exhibiting for several years now, and have held several solo shows in Trinidad and participated in international exhibitions such as Prizm Art Fair (Miami), the Jamaica Biennial, the Paraguay Biennial the Global Africa Project (at the Museum of Art and Design in New York).

Art has become central to my life, but with all this creative growth and striving, I found myself feeling increasingly that I needed more room to challenge myself and to spread my wings. So in 2016, on the prompting of my wife, I started applying at art school. I applied to the Royal College of Art in London, never really believing that I would get in (but still hoping… you know?) RCA is the top art school in the world – artists like David Hockney, Hew Locke, Chris Ofili, James Dyson, Henry Moore, Lubaina Himid went to RCA! And lo and behold, I got in too! This all makes this moment, my return to school after 30 years, a dream come true. To say that I am all in with this is an understatement.

Why a Master’s from the RCA?
More than ever before, I am determined to have a career as an artist. But as an artist from Trinidad and Tobago, I have struggled to connect with international networks, and as such the visibility of my work has suffered. While I have had some support and some success these have not been enough to sustain a career. I see the attainment of an MA as my means of correcting this.

After one term at the RCA, I have experienced and grown so much: I have been exposed to new ways of thinking about art making and ways of seeing. There is a constant critical atmosphere of discussion, forums, seminars, academic lectures, critiques and scholarship around my work – from fellow students, tutors, visiting lecturers, working artists and technical staff. I have access to a world class library and art-making facilities. This place has been mind-expanding from the get-go.

The attainment of the MA will not only further my career goals and aspirations but will hopefully allow me to play a critical role in art education/ facilitation on my return to the Caribbean where I want to teach at a tertiary-level institution. I am the first person of colour from Trinidad to attend RCA, and only the third ever Trinidadian to do so – this is something about which I am immensely proud, and which I hope will inspire my three daughters and a younger generation of artists to strive for their dreams.

On a larger scale, my research into black representation in all its forms by mainstream media,  and its itinerant effects of erasure and invisibility and what these mean to people of colour is perfectly poised at this Brexit/Trumpian world moment, and I believe it is a valuable tool of resistance.
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Richard Mark Rawlins
London, Greater London, United Kingdom

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