There's an old saw in south Florida that says "everybody goes south." It harkens back to a time when BroCo was still seen as backwater suburbs and the retirement communities of Palm Beach were solely a winter playground for old snowbirds. Culture, at that time, dropped like a stone in a South Florida pond, landing only in Miami.
Though the "scene" crept slowly into Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, that's still south as far as PBC is concerned. But with burgeoning downtown scenes dotting the east coast in towns like Delray, Lake Worth, and West Palm, that saying has lost its edge. Perhaps no community so clearly exemplifies this as the Boynton Beach Arts District.
Rolando Barrero is a bit of a veteran to the South Florida art scene. He started out at the ArtCenter/South Florida in Miami back in the '80s. He's no stranger to Wynwood, and counts Hollywood art mama Myra Wexler among his oldest friends.
"Last September, I left South Beach, and I was just planning on opening up a studio. I just wanted something cheap and removed so I could work," says Barrero. "Then I started having get-togethers, and then we started having shows and those became pre-openings, and then it turned into a gallery. It just grew organically."
The studio he opened is called the ActivistArtistA Gallery
and it helped to create the Boynton Beach Arts District. B-BAD, as it has come to be known, has grown exponentially over the past year.
Every fourth Thursday of the month, artwalk brings together artists and the community in what even Barerro describes as a desolate warehouse district. But there's nothing lonely or sad about it. There's live music, live painting, food, and the spawning of a real community. There's even an outdoor open mic every third Thursday.
This Sunday, from 2 to 11 p.m. Barerro and B-BAD will be having a kind of belated one year anniversary gathering called Golden. Expect food from Friar Tucks Sammiches & Tots, a dance performance by the Vanya E'dan Dance Company, paintings transplanted from Green Room, and live music by Koffin Varnish, Pocket of Lollipops, The Von, and Mylo Ranger.
The list of artists on display seems endless, and includes Alexia Hemmingway, Juan Erman Gonzalez, Kris Delgado, Renda Writer, Kristy Albury, Joseph Sonday, Cary Polkovitz, Paul Caprio, Tikki Tom, and even our own frequent freelance photographer Monica McGivern.
And that old saw about people only going south in South Florida?
"Miami is dead and it's dying. It's gone commercial. All the best galleries have closed and people have retired. People who showed cutting edge work have left and all that's left is 'sanctioned' work, work that has already been christened as good," says Barerro with resignation. "The rent is so high, so they have to bring in work that sells and is collectible. They can't bring in work that makes people think."
Needless to say, Barerro has no plans of heading south. Instead, he has planted his roots in Boynton Beach and plans to tend to the burgeoning arts district there for a long time to come.
422 W. Industrial Ave., Boynton Beach, FL