Rolando Chang Barreromight have stayed in any or all of his past careers in marketing or building management. Or he might even have continued to ply his trade as an artist. But he is a restless soul, determined to cultivate the arts in Boynton Beach. Arriving on West Industrial Avenue a year ago, Barrero found a few artists already working in solitude in the industrial bays. He started organizing events, and in a year turned the short street into a home for art, including ActivistArtistA, his stripped-down gallery for emerging artists. It may be the only official art district in the county, providing a destination for the art-hungry.
Q. Why Boynton Beach?
A. Somebody told me there was an arts district here, but it was kind of removed. The owner was putting out a (for rent) sign and I said, “Which bay?”
Q. Describe your first art events on Industrial Avenue.
A. I invited 12 artists to show in September. They brought two friends, and they brought two friends. Then it rained. My dear friend was singing, so they stayed. So I said, “OK, I’m going to do this one more time in November.” I chose two strong artists and it was very successful. Toward the end of that exhibition, the owner asks me if I want to rent another space that just became available. I couldn’t afford it, but then from out of the blue (artist) Lea Vendetta came up and said, “I love it here,” and I said, “I need somebody to share my space.” From there on, it’s been one exhibition after another. We did a Crayons for Kids fundraiser. We had a pre-Christmas art garage sale and discounted all our art to start the new year with a blank slate. Then we did Kero-Wacked in February. It was an homage to Jack Kerouac and people took to it. Suddenly it was a multimedia festival with musicians and all it cost was a special events permit.
Q. Who attends these events?
A. Our following is locals looking for something new. Because there’s only one way in (along West Industrial Boulevard), they are coming here for art. They range from all economic classes, and they’re all knowledgeable. There are people in sequined gowns and people in shorts and sandals, talking about art together. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t want that to change.
Q. What’s next for the arts district?
A. We will be part of the international kinetic exhibition in February. We’re putting together a graffiti show. Next month is Renda Writer, who throws poetry slams.
Q. And what’s next for you?
A. I’m doing what I love to do … When I worked with rental agents, you do foreclosures and evictions and you listen to these sad stories and it breaks your heart. Here, I’m surrounded by loving and giving people.