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As readers will recall, an unprecedented amount of rain fell on South Florida in early January. On Jan. 10, more than 22 inches fell in the Delray Beach, Boynton Beach area, flooding locations west of I-95 that no one had anticipated including the Boynton Beach Art District at 404-422 West Industrial Ave.

“It was an unbelievable mess,” said Art District mover and shaker, Rolando Barrero. “There were about 14 inches of standing water inside and outside all 11 studios.”

“I lost about $50,000 in art work,” said Richard Beau Lieu, sculptor and art appraiser who opened his studio in the district in 1986. “We’ve never had water before,” he continued. “So people never worried about storing archival material on lower shelves. Who would have guessed?”

According to Beau Lieu flood gates in a nearby canal were not opened during the heavy rains and this may have contributed to the water accumulation on the grounds. Beau Lieu said he had written to the city but thinks the canals might be the responsibility of the county.

“My losses were in excess of $50,000,” Barrero said. In addition to my damaged artwork that can’t be sold, I had all the electronic equipment that supported our projects. My computers were flooded as were sound boards, speakers, lighting fixtures. What a mess.”

“Worse,” Barrero said, “We’d been chosen to be the VIP Satellite Exhibit for ArtPalmBeach which started on Jan. 23. Thirteen days to dig out of the mess. And we did it.”

Barrero attributes much of the success to the artists and their friends and colleagues as well as buyers, agents and local volunteers who came off the street to help put things back together.

Graffiti artists arrived and touched up the parts of their murals that had been soaked.

Local neighbors brought food and encouragement.

The volunteers stripped out wet and molding walls, pressure cleaned with bleach and soap and installed new walls. They rented tables and other supplies and were ready on time to welcome some five hundred art lovers to enjoy the work of the district as part of ArtPalmBeach.

“It looks great,” Barrero said. “But it’s all superficial and now comes the task of rebuilding two and a half years of infrastructure that was wiped out in about a day.”

Barrero expressed gratitude to the readers of South Florida Gay News who drove up from Fort Lauderdale to help. “We’d run a full-page ad in the paper and when people in Broward heard about the flood, many of them came to help. It was amazing,” Barrero said.

“We lost the organic garden,” he said. We managed to save most of the soil but we can’t call it organic anymore. We’ll be installing a lot more decorative plants than in the past. But what can you do?”

According to Barrero, some of the loss is covered with insurance; a lot is not, and he needs an immediate $2,500 to replace some of the damaged electronics. .

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