Biz, Beats & Arts — A Spotlight on Rockaway’s Unsung Heroes – Artist: Geoff Rawling

 Biz, Beats & Arts — A Spotlight on Rockaway’s Unsung Heroes – Artist: Geoff Rawling

By Kami-Leigh Agard

Who are some of Rockaway’s unsung heroes? The businesses, bands, performers and artists that keep Rockaway alive all year long—even during the brutal winter months. In this bi-weekly feature, read about the entities and individuals who make the peninsula and Broad Channel one of the best places in NYC to live, dine, jam and enjoy the arts in all its forms, and exemplify why we should support local all year round.

In this week’s installation, meet visual artist, Geoff Rawling. Originally from Hackney, a working-class neighborhood in east London, similar to Rockaway (same church different pew), in 1979, Rawling crossed the pond and explored the U.S., until finally settling in NYC. A chance encounter in 1989 with Owen Baxter, owner of Palm Gardens Pub, landed him in Rockaway via the old ferry. Since then, Rawling was and still is a pivotal driver of the local arts scene. From co-founding the Rockaway Artists Alliance, the Rockaway Poseidon’s Parade, saving Whalemina, putting his signature on storefronts and parks up and down the peninsula, hosting painting classes for seniors, and so much more—in the following Q&A, Rawling narrates his journey as an artist and why the sand between his toes forever connects him to Rockaway.

RT: Geoff, first off, one just has to go to your Instagram to get a taste of your body of work in NYC alone. What keeps driving you to keep producing work, despite the challenges of making a living as an artist?

GR: I’ve done it since childhood. Art was always my language, my expression. I had a natural instinct, and then luckily, I was born at a time and a place where that was still encouraged. When I came to this country, I didn’t know anybody. I was on the street. And so I would go to a business, and say, “You need your storefront painted?” After living in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, then moving to Rockaway, once you’re on the ladder on the block, and you’re doing colorful, good stuff, people will go, “Oh, who’s this guy?” They want it. So, I got passed around.

I’m not a wealthy guy. I’ve always depended on my heart. And there’s times when I’m doing better than other times, but I never turn down work. As a child, I learned from my grandmother, “Never say no to money.” And I don’t choose the businesses, they choose me.

RT: What was it like for you as an artist during COVID?

GR: COVID was a good time for me because I’m a single guy who works alone. I got more work on interiors during COVID because people were stuck in their houses, and they’re going stir crazy looking at blank walls. So, I just went into whatever room they wanted painted, put my music on and worked, knowing I would produce something beautiful.

RT: In your twenty-year tenure living in Rockaway, you helped build the arts community. The Poseidon’s Prom is happening this Saturday. How did you get involved with kickstarting the whole Poseidon’s movement with the Mermaid Brigade?

GR: Casey Brouder, who’s from Breezy, is really the mother of the Poseidon’s Parade. Casey used to come to programs at the Rockaway Artists Alliance when she was a teenager. Her then boyfriend and now husband, Bobby Butler, go to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade every year. I was helping them with the Rockaway float, which always had Bobby’s band, Indaculture. So, we had both the music and visual elements. Casey was always keen to the visual. She would get everyone dressed up, and I was just the guy helping with the float. We even won for best music at the parade when Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were crowned king and queen. And so, Casey got the bug to start Rockaway’s Poseidon’s Parade. While the Coney Island Mermaid Parade is the kickoff to the summer, Rockaway’s Poseidon’s Parade is the last splash.

RT: In all your experiences painting in NYC, what’s one piece you consider iconic?

GR: St. Mark’s Bar & Grill is probably one of the most famous places that I did. The weird part about that story is the Rolling Stones made the video for the song, “Waiting on a Friend,” at that bar. While on their downtime, I painted them in the back, hanging out at the back of the bar. It didn’t get in the video, but two years later, I’m walking by Tower Records, when it used to be on Broadway, and I see this huge poster of Mick Taylor, the guitarist for the Stones, in front of my mural with my signature next to it. That was pretty amazing.

RT: What is one piece of advice you would give to an up-and-coming artist hoping to make it big?

GR: One of my friends gave me this advice: You can never choose what people will make you famous for, and it’s very true. My greatest wish would be that a painting that I got up in the morning and got inspired to do would go for thousands of dollars in an art gallery. That’s not the reality of the world. Social media has helped getting my work out there, but it’s all about marketing. And my bread and butter comes from working class families and businesses just looking to add some art to their space or life.

Geoff Rawling will be doing what he does best at the Poseidon’s Prom, happening this Saturday, February 3, 7 p.m. at Connolly’s. For more info about Rawling and to view his work, follow him on Instagram at: geoffiti.

Related post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *