Artist working to keep Boynton Art District afloat after flood

Rolando Chang Barrero works every day to promote the Boynton Beach Art District among artists in South Florida and around the world. Barrero, 51, hosts exhibits and open-mic events, and even an occasional field trip with students. He even received a recognition last week from U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings for his work with the students at Manatee Elementary, who visited the art district to learn about recycling and how to turn trash into art.

Where are you from, and how did you get your art training?

I am a native of South Florida, of Cuban-Asian descent. I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I graduated with a bachelor’s of fine arts and the Ryerson Fellowship for travel abroad, which took me to Cuba for study and research before returning to get an MAAT (master of arts in art therapy) degree. After completing my degree, I returned to Miami Beach, where I had my studio on Lincoln Road, and a job as interim galleries director for all three of the Miami-Dade Community College Galleries in downtown Miami and Little Havana. Later, I opened my first gallery with Jennie Persons called Ground Level in conjunction with the South Florida Art Center.

What brought you to Boynton Beach?

After years of traveling throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Latin America, I returned to Miami Beach to find too many changes for me to feel comfortable with — mostly the high rents and exorbitant cost of living there. I was exploring Palm Beach County, and found a great little cottage in Delray to live, but I still needed a studio. A few months later, I discovered the Industrial Park in Boynton Beach and rented a small unit to work in. The studio soon became part-time gallery and I incorporated under my college nickname, ActivistArtistA, which means activist artist in Spanish. In a few months I realized I had outgrown the single bay unit and moved to larger quarters and finally to the street-facing double bay I currently work out of. The ActivistArtistA Gallery remained in the original space.

What current exhibits and projects at developing at the art district?

Current exhibits and projects are all over the board, from coordinating ART SYNERGY’s six countywide satellite exhibitions for ArtPalmBeach with my co-founder and friend, Craig McInnis, to a three-man exhibition I’m in with Greg Matthews and Anthony Burks at the Boynton Beach City Library. As far at the Boynton Beach Art District and the ActivistArtistA Gallery, we just held the biggest event there called ART SYNERGY’s ARTalFRESCO which included over 50 artists, 10 sponsors, a tour of the Avenue of the Arts provided by the City of Boynton Beach/Art in Public Places and the South Florida Symphony.

What are your plans for the art district’s near future?

Right now the plans are to recover for the damages for the major flooding we experienced a couple of weeks ago. We all lost so much, but most importantly we lost the equipment that provided our revenue stream: our computers and sound equipment. We have a established an online support page on to help raise the $2,000 to get us up and running to continue our programing. The third annual KeroWACKed Festival was postponed until March, or even April. Boynton Beach Live scheduled every third Thursday was canceled for January, but is still on our February calendar.

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