Growing up in a family of construction workers and bikers, Shane Manier traveled a lot. With a childhood shaped by change – new landscapes, new environments – she found a way to process it all through art and writing. And, by creating work that was uniquely hers, and uniquely her, she created a sort of permanence and stability in a world that lacked both.
“Amid all the travel and moving, my art and poetry were things I could hang onto,” Manier said.
And she has – amid walls full of painted canvasses, she has file cabinets full of pieces written over more than two decades, including those earliest works from the road.
The founder of Guerilla Poets, a flash poetry mob aiming to empower, inspire and inform people through poetry, Manier, now 31, has written nearly every day for more than two decades. She recognizes the power that writing can have, and wants to use that power for social change.
In addition to hosting and performing at open mic nights, members of Guerilla Poets work with with various community organizations and groups to spark conversations around difficult topics, to promote understanding, and to make poetry accessible to all.
Manier also paints voraciously, and in recent years has taken up speed painting. Don’t let the name deceive you – “speed painting” is anything but superficial. The results are quite powerful, for both the artist and the viewers.
Painting live subjects in real time, Manier says, forces her to stop thinking – or overthinking – and tap into a basic instinct.
She remembers painting musician Kyra Pascoe at ‘Tawba Walk last year:“When I finished, Kyra said that the colors I used were the same colors she was thinking about as she was playing,” Manier said. “There’s got to be something to that – something deeper. It’s like their art is creating my art.”
Manier has a day job that pays the bills – the Art Institute of Charlotte graduate works as a graphic designer for International Minute Press in Charlotte. But her passion lies in her “artivism” (arts-based activism). She doesn’t paint for the money, though her pieces are for sale. She doesn’t write for the fame, though she is increasingly well known for her work. She does this work because she knows in her heart that it is important.
“A lot of people say art matters but they never go into why,” she said. “Art does matter. It can be extremely impactful. It can change lives, and that’s what I want to do.”
Guerilla Poets’ next initiative will be an interracial pot luck, to which people are encouraged to bring dishes unique to their cultural backgrounds. The pot luck will be a starting point to begin conversations about personal histories and experiences, with an aim to foster understanding, respect and community building.
For more information on Guerilla Poets’ events and work, visit its website.
We asked Shane Manier to finish these sentences:
I paint/write because…
Touch. Art is rebellion and rebellion is a need to be heard, and to make change – and all of those actions are to touch another person.
When I paint/write I feel…
When I paint/Write I want others to feel…