Traveler, Artist & Urban Explorer
Recent graduate Alexander Rash’s unique educational journey has been exactly that: a journey. The foundations for his adventurous approach to learning were laid at a young age; he attributes his sense of “global curiosity” to moving with his family from Singapore to Malaysia, then to California and finally to Minnesota, where he enrolled at the University of Minnesota.
The travel bug led the French and marketing double-major to study abroad in southern France his junior year. His year at Science Politiques in Aix-en-Provence and in Paris was notable not only for the classes he took, but also for stoking his passion for art. He was soon collaborating with like-minded individuals on the outskirts of Paris and chose to remain in France after his program ended.
Rash is not the traditional student, taking a significant gap in the middle of his collegiate career. However, he believes that “everyone should go through a transgressional phase in life.” As he puts it, “everything is in your book of life.”
Parisian art scene
Rash’s involvement in the Paris art scene took several forms. He is an untrained, but avid, photographer, who loves to capture images of the world as he sees it. He worked as an auctioneer of Africana and Pre–Columbian art and became a proprietor of a small, collective publishing house called Croatan Edition. It publishes books of photographs, usually photojournalistic images taken using either film or digital technology. Many of the images are political and experimental, but “always romantic.”
The collective takes a romantic approach to bookselling, as well. “When you buy a book, part of the bond that you have with it is how you buy it,” Rash says. “So, you’ll meet one of us who will tell you a story, and you’ll really get drawn into it.” The experience is tactile as well; many of their books have intricate packaging, even adorned with hand-embroidered patches.
Rash may have been based in Paris for a while, but he didn’t stop exploring during that time. He joined Road Dogs, a freight train syndicate. The group is comprised of about a dozen members from varying backgrounds—from a law student to a tattoo artist to an econometrician—who hop freight trains throughout Europe, never completely sure where they will end up.
“We do it to see a different perspective. It’s the idea of getting lost, and the idea of leaving society, but also coming back to society,” Rash rhapsodizes. “It’s so hard to get lost in modern society—it’s actually impossible. You can get on a plane to Barcelona, but you still know where you’re going. There’s a difference from that and actually hopping on a train, and riding until it stops. You really have to be ready for it.“
And Rash was ready for it. “This was a time where I wanted to be on my own,” he says of his personal transgressional phase. The comradery that he shared with Road Dogs was “worth a lot more than anything else I could have been doing at that time. I think that exploring is real richness.”
Rash returned to the University of Minnesota this year and graduated in spring 2017. His French studies have given him “the ability to think in multiple dimensions as relates to society” and allows him to “work abroad and hustle harder.” He also attributes his romanticism and improved manners to his time spent studying French.
In the near future, he plans to return to his apartment in Paris and tend to the publishing house. He is not sure how long he’ll stay there, though, as he feels Mexico City is calling him. He’s drawn to the “off-the-grid” city and wants to make his mark on its “exploding” art scene. Rash is not completely sure of what else the future holds for him—and that’s part of the allure.
“Do things you like for what you love,” he says, "and good things will come.”