About The Founder

Raghad Mardini is the founder and director of Art Residence Aley (2012), an NGO that supports Syrian artists and curates exhibitions and performances worldwide. Born in Syria, Mardini studied and taught engineering and design at Damascus University, designed and supervised and restored many houses in Damascus. She went on to rent and restore an old horse stable in Aley (Mount Lebanon) and turned it into an art residence, which hosts artists on a monthly basis and provides them with space and freedom to express themselves through art. Raghad holds a Masters in Structural Engineering and BSS in Civil engineering from Damascus University

“I have always been involved in the art scene in Damascus. After the situation in Syria deteriorated, around October 2011, thousands of Syrians fled to Lebanon, among them many young emerging artists. With the difficult conditions and emotional trauma, artists had to take available jobs in construction and in restaurants instead of creating art. Given the situation and my belief in the importance of art in times of war, the idea of the Art Residence in Aley (ARA) arose.
I came to London in the summer of 2015, moving from Beirut with my two children. I was very vulnerable, alone, with no support structure and nothing to back me up. It was difficult, I was often miserable and lonely, I was shocked by the coldness, by all the rules in London, a grey shell impossible to crack open. I was this determined person who will not give up, I carried with me my long time and extensive experience in art and the cultural management field and my vast network of Syrian artists, my eyes were wide open. I studied and hold a Masters degree in Museums, Galleries and Contemporary culture at Westminster University. After graduation I gained endorsement from Westminster University for establishing Litehouse Gallery. It was both a wonderful and a challenging period”.

Previous exhibitions

  • Curated a Collective exhibition for Syrian Artists at ARA October 2012
  • Organized a collective small painting exhibition at Dar al-Musawer March 2013 Beirut-Lebanon
  • Curated a Collective exhibition at Sun Flower theater during Munamnamat festival April 2013 Beirut-Lebanon
  • Organized a lecture “ War And Expression” with Sami Daoud at Dar Al-Musawer, May 2013 Beirut-Lebanon
  • Participated at Syrian Contemporary Art Exhibition, Art Lounge, October 2013 Beirut-Lebanon
  • Organized Aperitivo with art I & II with UN support, November 2013 Beirut-Lebanon
  • Curated a Collective exhibition in collaboration with Orient Gallery, February 2014 Amman-Jordan
  • Curated “ Art of Resilience” Collective exhibition at the World Bank Headquarters in April 2014 Washington DC
  • Participated at a Collective Exhibition “ Kunststuff Syrien” in March 2014 Berlin-Germany
  • Curated and Organized a solo exhibition of Sculpture for Sari Kiwan at ARA October 2014 Aley-Lebanon
  • Participated with five artists at World day for Peace exhibition CapKuwait September 2014 Kuwait
  • Organized Art, Culinary & Artisanal Fair with UNHCR, December 2014 Beirut-Lebanon
  • Curated open studio “Embroiderers of Reality” at ARA with Swiss Embassy and Basmeh And Zaitouneh, April 2015 Aley-Lebanon
  • Organized “Suture” event, Panel discussion with Mounira Solh, Areej Harb and rabee Haddad followed by a Concert with Ghassan Sahhab and Ali Al Hout at Art Residence Aley, May 2015 Aley-Lebanon
  • Curated “Syrian Art in Hard Times” Collective exhibition with UNHCR, June 2015 Villa Paradiso, Beirut-Lebanon
  • Organized “ Celebrate Syria” event with art exhibition at Westminster University, Flyvie Hall, February 2016 London-UK
  • Organized “ Art for Refugees” event and exhibition with EBRD, February 2017 London-UK
  • Curated ” Reflections” Collective Exhibition at Arab British Center, June 2017, London-UK
  • Curated ” Curate Syria” Collective Exhibition at Nara-Japan
  • Director of the documentary “ Art of Resilience” supported by British Council 2014
  • Published “ Syrian Art in Hard Times 2012-2015”  supported by UNHCR 2015 Beirut-Lebanon

Conferences and talks:

  • Youth Action for Refugees panel at London Southbank University, ‘London: City or Diversity or Closed Borders’ March 2017 London-UK
  • Visiting lecturer at University of East London about the work of Syrian artists in Exile, November 2016 London-UK 
  • Talk at ”Arab Migrations in 20 Century” conference at Duke University, January 2016, Durham, North Carolina.
  • Participated in a panel at Arab Women Artists in Rich Mix, 13 March 2016, London-UK
  • Participated in a workshop for Women Empowerment with Kizcod at Westminster University December 2015 London-UK