Rolando Chang Barrero stands in front of a mural, which has tally marks for the number of days the Art Walk has been banned by the city, in the Boynton Beach Art District on July 30, 2014. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Boynton Beach is wedged between the two, arguably more popular and culturally relevant, cities of Lake Worth and Delray Beach.
For a long time Boynton Beach was the underdog being left out of the conversations that attract the often sought after business-heavy foot traffic that helps financially support communities. These are the types of conversations that wag the tongues of the various cultural attachés within the bourgeoisie of Southern Florida.
Enter Rolando Chang Barrero, prolific artist, community organizer, activist, and volunteer for local schools and PBC United Way, all within Boynton Beach. He's the visionary who's work transformed a formerly run-down industrial area of Boynton Beach into the darling art district of South Florida, housing and organizing many artists in it's own right.
Anyone who's anyone who pays attention to the South Florida artistic community is aware of this man and the Boynton Beach Art District(aka BBAD, it's affectionately known acronym).
Every major newspaper, cultural rag, and art periodical in the region has given Rolando and BBAD it's due with front page headlines, such as the New Times of Broward Palm Beach(link 1, 2, & 3), the Sun Sentinel(link), Art Hive Magazine(link), Palm Beach Culture(link), WLRN of Miami(link), and the Palm Beach Post(link), to name just a few.
The articles listed here are recently published and represent only a fraction of a segment of the total amount of headlines Rolando and BBAD have received for all the action and events that have taken place there, to mention them all would require it's own Wikipedia page.
Given all this positive attention, and given the resulting people flocking to Boynton Beach, the City of Boynton Beach decided recently to ban the popular monthly art walks that take place at BBAD.
If BBAD is responsible for putting the art scene in Boynton Beach on the map, what type of public policy in place could possibly motivate the City of Boynton Beach to ban future art walks in the Boynton Beach Art District?
Interview with Rolando Chang Barrero
The examiner recently conducted an interview with Rolando where he provided his opinion and information regarding the ban. The following quotes and information within this section of this article are excerpts from that interview.
“When other small towns grow and see the need for a stop sign or light at an intersection they don't close down the whole road. The City has gone about this all wrong, and the community is not at all happy. This is more akin to extortion of small not for profits then actual safety concerns.”
Rolando continues on to say, “I love the City of Boynton Beach and it's community leaders, but it almost seems that the out of town staff is committed to retarding growth by creating road blocks for growth and development.”
The preoccupation to place a tax on the BBAD art walks have led to conflicting reasons for the ban on the popular events, suggesting that there's not a very informed, or even slightly coherent, reason within the City of Boynton Beach regarding the matter.
In his struggle, Rolando found that Tara Altman, of the Boynton Beach risk department, claimed there would be "no proceeds" for monthly event permits by the city, while, confusingly enough, the spokesperson for Boynton blames organizers for incorrect permits. To add to the storm of disorganization and poor management, the city manager claims it's due to growth and safety concerns.
As of now, there is no documented history of violence or disruptions at BBAD events. According to Rolando attendance during summer month's are less then 25% of the usual traffic. These are small local artistic events that entertain people while helping to provide a living for local fine artists within Boynton.
“We are hoping, as suggested by Commissioner McCray, that when the "process" is figured out, that BBAD is grandfathered into it. We can only pray that we are not affected by the historical usurious taxing that has alienated other events from continuing in Boynton.” said Rolando, who has a meeting with city officials on August 1st.
So what's the real answer for this controversial move by Boynton? Why can't the representatives in Boynton get it together enough to provide a unified front on this matter? Why would Boynton Beach want to extort money from an artistic community that has not only turned around an entire section of their town, but also given the city it's main source of artistic praise?
To any logical, thinking person, marginalizing and publicly oppressing your main source of press in the art world is a bad idea, but not in Boynton Beach.
Avenue of the Arts
In an interesting related twist, the City of Boynton Beach has big plans to focus it's public artistic content into a specific area of the city entitled the Avenue of the Arts.
The Avenue of the Arts is well done. It deserves credit because it's fantastic. The artists involved and the city have worked hard to accomplish this, but given the circumstances of how the city has attempted to shape it's own artistic culture, one could perceive the Avenue of the Arts as a place where art is allowed to exist only under direct supervision and approval by the city of Boynton Beach itself, forcing a system upon artists that designates approved art for the masses under government supervision.
That's not to say the Boynton Beach is only acting questionably and giving no credit to BBAD. They dedicate an entire half a sentence to BBAD in the public art section of the city website that goes as follows,
No further description is provided, there are no directions, and no account of the plethora of events that occurred at BBAD.
BBAD is also credited in a video released by Boynton in 2013, “Art in Public Places". The credit exists in the form of a single picture that illustrates a sliver of the art district for one second(located at approximately 3:48 minutes, with no audible acknowledgment of BBAD) wedged somewhere between a lengthy promotion for Avenue of the Arts and a description of rocks that are arranged in an artistic fashion within a nature preserve.
One could interpret this congratulate-then-immediately-shutdown strategy as an ironic display of performance art, or maybe it's just poor internal organization within the Boynton Beach rising to the surface.
Whatever the seemingly perplexing answer to this controversial situation may be, and however the outcome unfolds, it's safe to assume that with friends like these, who needs enemies?
Last week, Boynton Beach announced that it was putting the kibosh on the the Boynton Beach Art District (BBAD) monthly art walks.
The art walks had revitalized what was previously your run-of-the-mill warehouse district. What was once a wasteland of old hollow buildings buried in the shadows west of I-95 turned into a flourishing art scene.
"Boynton Beach finally did something before Miami and Delray Beach: It banned its own signature, award-winning art walk. Go figure that one out," artist and gallery owner Rolando Barrero told New Times' music blog last week.
A group of artists and spiritualists are meeting at sunset this evening to bring awareness in hopes of shifting the city's perspective on why shutting down the art walk is wrong for the community.
and Emily Andari of New Earth Tribes are requesting our presence July 30, Wednesday evening, from 7:30 (sunset) to a gathering with drums, rattles, open hearts and positivity with the intention to lift the Artwalk ban and clear any obstacles in the further expansion and well being of the Arts District and community of artists. As many of you know Rolando and his significant efforts on behalf of the community in Boynton Beach and surrounding areas has left a long lasting and heart felt impact on the lives of many. Please join us in supporting not only the Boynton Beach Arts District but the entire creative collective in lifting the artwalk ban!
About New Earth Tribes:
New Earth Tribes is a space where dreams are actualized, where magic is realized.
Transformation through teachings and traditions of indigenous wisdom.
New Earth Tribes community and The Wakeup has continued to grow and thrive for over 3 years. We stand for transformation and empowerment. By way of earth medicine, teachings and traditions of indigenous wisdom and providing a space for authentic expression and sharing of the gifts and talents we are blessed with, New Earth Tribes proves to be a beacon of light and source of Joy. We are currently growing our outreach programs in halfway houses and treatment centers. All are welcome to New Earth Tribes. http://www.the-wakeup.com/
by Boynton Beach resident Jes Robison says, "As a professional and a resident within this community, I am inspired by the efforts made by the Boynton Beach Arts District to engage the city of Boynton Beach's artistic populace. I believe they should be commended for their initiative and creativity, not to mention the dream they share with the many Boynton residents that believe our city can only benefit by actively promoting an atmosphere of culture and imagination."
The City is making up policies that are affecting actual working people's lives. BB Art District is a beacon of culture in a depressed area, and THE source of livelihood for dozens of artists and craftsmen who work and exhibit there. It is a homegrown, organic product of love and hard work, and an AMAZING SUCCESS. City of Boynton- try to resolve this please or something we all need will go away!
Is Boynton Beach suddenly unfriendly to artists? So much has been done to put this little seaside town on the map as super friendly to art, with a strong Art in Public Places effort, annual sculpture trail, EcoArt included in its Green Ordinance, a beautiful new EcoArt project (EcoWalk at Seabourn Cove) and a new Kinetic Art symposium and show once a year. Why would the city now shut down what has been called the Most Successful Art Walk in Palm Beach and Broward Counties?? Let's hope Boynton reconsiders shutting down Rolando Chang Barrero's fun monthly events that generate income for local artists! There should be no ban on art!