Rolando Chang Barrero is known for his art and his activism, and he regularly mixes the two at his gallery in West Palm Beach.
But The Box Gallery could close for good in the next week if it isn’t able to raise the funds necessary to pay his rent and expenses.
“I’m desperate,” Barrero admitted. “I’m hemorrhaging money.”
In the past few years Barrero has become a fixture in the LGBT community with his most recent undertaking being Pride on the Block, an event that took place right before the coronavirus pandemic turned into a crisis here in South Florida.
And like many other businesses throughout South Florida The Box Gallery was forced to shut its doors to the public. Now its future is uncertain unless Barrero can find a quick infusion of cash.
“Most of my relationships are with artists and they are unemployed and they can’t even help me,” he said.
Barrero has launched a GoFundMe page to raise some cash. So far, in two days, it’s raised $900. The goal is $4,000. He’s also hoping his landlord will give him some leniency on the rent but no deal is in place.
“The funds will be used to cover the rent and overhead of the coming month due to the unexpected loss of income streams from events and canceled projects that have maintained the gallery opened,” according to the page. “I have previously been able to weather losses by using personal revenue from working outside the gallery, but I have also lost those jobs due to the sequestering of my clients and students due to the virus.”
This year Barrero was named the official set designer of this year’s Pride of the Palm Beaches, and personally invested $4,000 to create custom made merchandise. Now that the event has been cancelled he’s stuck with the products.
“I have orders still arriving,” he said.
In addition to the GoFundMe he’s been asking people on social media to consider purchasing some of the merchandise. Since the products are not dated or specific to a city he’s hoping to be able to sell it down the line at other events in the future.
“Rolando is The Box Gallery. What he has built in such a short amount of time is incredible,” said Julie Seaver, executive director of Compass. “I think he cloned himself. I can’t keep up with the amount of energy he has, the amount of passion.”
Compass produces the annual Pride festival in Palm Beach County and Seaver said any costs associated with the set design would still be reimbursed to Barrero, despite the cancellation.
But the merchandise is not part of that.
“Compass would love to buy up the t-shirts, [and other products], but our dollars have restrictions,” Seaver explained.
Seaver then noted that Barrero isn’t just a part of the LGBT community but he’s also a force within the arts and cultural community, and the Hispanic community.
Seaver said she’s hopeful the city will help small businesses like The Box Gallery to keep them in business.
Many of Barrero’s exhibits have personally touched Seaver. Last year, she said, he did a Pride exhibit that traveled all over South Florida.
“He created that as a backdrop for Palm Beach Pride stage,” she said. “He has a way of connecting issues like Pulse and school shootings and putting it through his art work in such a way that it’s political but non-partisan.”
She noted that he’s also good at “creating controversy” through his gallery and work. But added, “not all controversy is bad.”
Visit The Box Gallery online here.