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Award-winning Boynton Beach art district banned from organizing art walks

City Commissioner David Merker and Rolando Chang Barrero at Rolando's current exhibition and benefit to support the hungry of Boynton beach.
Rolando Chang Barrero

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 the city 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 proper 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 amount of people flocking to Boynton Beach as direct result, the city 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 on the map, what type of public policy in place could possibly motivate the city to ban future art walks in the Boynton Beach Art District?

Interview with Rolando Chang Barrero

The recently conducted an interview with Rolando where he provided his opinion and information regarding the ban. The following quotes and information within this section are excerpts taken 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 Boynton 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, a 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? Why can't the representatives in Boynton get it together enough to provide a unified front? Why would Boynton Beach want to extort money from an artistic community that has not only turned around an entire section of their town and brought tourists and high-end foot traffic within a service state, not only provided an original, family-friendly environment for the community, and not just supporting a growing number of local artists who work out of BBAD, but has also repeatedly given the city it's main source of artistic and cultural 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 is heavily promoting a specific area of the city entitled the Avenue of the Arts. This section in Downtown Boynton is very well done. It deserves credit because it's fantastic.

The artists involved and the city have obviously worked hard to accomplish this and for good reason, 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,

"BBAD, Boynton Beach Arts District

Face Book: Boynton Beach Art District"

No further description is provided, there are no directions, and no account of the plethora of events that occur there.

BBAD is also credited in a video released by the City of Boynton Beach in 2013 entitled 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, 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.

On the city of Boynton Beach Art in Public Places facebook page, the city also recently acknowledged BBAD when they congratulated Rolando for winning best art exhibition in 2014, before promptly banning the popular art walks shortly thereafter.

One could interpret this congratulate-then-immediately-shutdown strategy as an ironic display of performance art, or maybe it's just more poor organization within the City of 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?

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