Twenty years ago, local DeWayne Barton started a community garden on an overgrown lot in the historic Burton Street neighborhood. That was the beginning of Hood Huggers International, a nonprofit that seeks to rebuild Affrilachia through the arts, environmental stewardship, and new social enterprises.
Over the last two decades, that modest garden — now called Peace Gardens and Market — has transformed into a colorful community compound, brimming with sculptures, murals, greenhouses, an outdoor oven, and performance + gathering spaces. It even has a furnished bungalow that hosts artists residencies.
“[Twenty] years is a significant milestone, especially when you’ve been operating from the grassroots level,” shares Barton. “We’ve been able to weather challenges, and ... create opportunities for individuals and organizations throughout the city and the country, and even globally.”
Specifically, that’s meant creating programs like Hood Tours, which explores Black history landmarks throughout Asheville, and co-founding Green Opportunities, a green jobs training program for under-resourced communities. As for the farm: it’s producing thousands of pounds of fresh produce a year, much of which is delivered through free CSAs for neighborhood elders.
Last year, Hood Huggers also shared plans for The Blue Note Junction, its most ambitious project yet, which aims to add a commercial kitchen, retail market, neighborhood spa, theater space, and other community assets to Burton Street.
Want to help celebrate 20 years? Head to the Spring Fling on Saturday, April 29 from 11 to 5 p.m. Festivities include:
- A bilingual puppet show, bounce house, kids zone, and basketball tournament
- Live music from Devin Jones, Shidaria Solomon, Orange Moon, Mike Martinez, and more
- Food from Cooking With Comedy, The Hop, Daddy D’s, and Mr. Anderson’s Hot Dogs
- Plant + craft sale from primarily BIPOC vendors
- A mural installation from artist Jenny Pickens and local youth