Chickweed celebrates art, music; draws bigger crowd

Published 12:24 am Sunday, July 24, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — “If a community wants to better themselves or grow, you have to have the arts,” said Shane Manier, an artist and poet who attended this year’s Chickweed festival.

Manier is the founder of Guerilla Poets, a flash poetry mob group made up of 16 poets, artists, musicians and photographers. The group has participated in the festival since its inception. The nonprofit does spoken word and poetry at schools, festivals, and other events.

Chickweed, held Saturday at the F&M Trolley Barn, is an open-air event that features music, art, massage, food and other activities whose proceeds benefit the Rowan Family Crisis Council’s battered women’s shelter.

This is the fifth year of the event, which has grown and changed locations over the years, said co-founder of the event and organizer Sue McHugh.

She said in the past the event has been held at the Black Box Theater, and this year they’ve successfully expanded, added more vendors and were able to accommodate more people with a bigger venue.

McHugh said they loved being at the theater, but having the event at the Trolley Barn provided space for more vendors and gave people more space to walk around. She expected just under 500 people to attend the event, which lasted until after 11 p.m.

“It’s all women performers, musicians, artists, visual artists raising money for our sisters in need,” she said.

McHugh said in the beginning no one knew the event would continue to be popular and successful. Chickweed just recently received its nonprofit status. Last year’s event raised $15,201.

“We want to effect lives through the arts,” said Manier.

She said every event the Guerilla Poets participate in is to help raise funds for various organizations. Manier said one of the reasons they began attending Chickweed and participating was because all of the proceeds benefited a good cause.

“When I see that then I know we’re in the right place,” she said.

Manier said events like Chickweed are great for a community because “it shows support. Things like this are important. It’s great to see men out here supporting it too.”

In years past the poets did spoken word in between the different performances, but this year artists like Nikii Vonn and Manier, brought some of their work and painted throughout the day.

“Art changes lives,” Manier said.

Volunteer Ashley Honbarrier has been attending the event since it began four years ago.

“It’s a great community event. It’s grown so much,” she said.

Honbarrier said she’s glad to see such a diverse group of people gathering despite the racial climate going on throughout the country.

Becky Bradham attended the festival for the first time after hearing about it from Honbarrier. Bradham lives in Lexington and participates in the Vagina Monologues there and supports a local women’s shelter, but she hopes to join in next year as a performer for Chickweed.

Renee Bradshaw, executive director of the Rowan Family Crisis Council, said it was great that F&M donated use of the Trolley Barn and she’s grateful to McHugh for her hard work.

“Sue is magnificent. All of the women that support us — it has grown into this,” she said, looking around.

She said she feels as though people think the Family Crisis Council only operates a battered women’s shelter, but it also provides court advocacy, a rape crisis hotline, group therapy and three new sexual assault nurses in the emergency room.

Bradshaw said she’d soon like to have a downtown location so that women could feel safe and have a handicapped accessible building.

The Family Crisis Council is a Rowan United Way partner agency.