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UNT Dye Garden blends nature’s resources with visual art

UNT Dye Garden blends nature’s resources with visual art

Fibers art senior Rachel McGee is the President of the dye garden at UNT. The dye garden is located next to Bain hall.

UNT Dye Garden blends nature’s resources with visual art
October 19
11:15 2017

For a certain group of visual arts students, their work includes blending nature’s resources throughout their craft in the form of natural dye.

UNT has a hidden treasure within its fibers program, the Natural Dye Garden.

“There are around five or six students who use the dye garden consistently,” said Abby Sherrill, fibers program art technician and adjunct instructor. “We have workshops where other students come in and use it.”

The Dye Garden is located near Avenue D and Highland Street on the west side of Bain Hall.

The fibers program represents a tiny slice of the university with its small pool of students.

“Students use the dye in their courses and work all the time, so that is one way to see the garden in full effect,” Sherrill said.

The fibers program had a show last week at the Lightwell, the main gallery in the art building.

The senior fiber students have a show coming up at Cora Stafford on Oak Street that will feature work done using the dye made with the flowers from the garden.

“Working in the dye garden is a good space for student leadership and involvement in the fibers program,” fibers major Molly Beaufait said.

Beaufait uses inspiration from the garden to propose projects and then uses the garden to bring those projects to life.

“The garden allows you to have a say in what you want to do with your art and also how you want to do it,” Beaufait said. “Working in the garden also provides outside experience.”

The idea for a garden used to create the dye for the department came in 2011 when Sasha Duerr, a fibers professor at the California College of Arts (CCA), visited UNT for a workshop.

“At the time, I was taking classes and preparing to apply for grad school,” Sherrill said.

CCA has a dye garden that they used for quite some time prior to its implementation on North Texas soil.

“Everybody was interested, but a group of us really wanted to find a way to bring natural dyes to campus,” said Sherrill. “We applied for funding through the We Mean Green Fund and received it, and [we] got to work on the garden.”

The garden was finished in 2012 and was flourishing by fall 2013.

The College of Visual Arts & Design (CVAD) is open to using the dye garden for collaboration among other departments and outside organizations.

“We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with people of all majors,” Sherrill said. “We like to find new ways to make use of the dye and the garden, and anybody can really use it, regardless of major.”

One organization that has worked with the CVAD department and dye garden is Big Thought, a nonprofit from the Dallas area that works with children to engage them and keep their minds imaginative and expressive.

Big Thought brought kids from their programs to campus to experience the garden and learn about it.

Members of CVAD have also worked with the Denton County Master Garden Association to help the garden thrive.

“We do workshops with them, and they work a bit in the garden,” Sherrill said. “They know more about plants, [and] we know more about arts and dye, so it’s a teaching process for both parties.”

Although the garden is providing opportunities for students now, some worry about what is to come for nature and how people affect it.

“Making dye in the garden is a great way to get rich color in a fabric without using chemicals that are dangerous to the environment,” said Natural Dye Garden President Rachel McGee. “Conceptually, we try to tie in that natural aspect.”

The upkeep of the garden is a collaborative effort of the students who use it.

“I’m president in name, but everybody contributes just as much as I do,” McGee said.

Though the garden’s upkeep and basic operations are performed by students, there are certain circumstances that cannot be helped by students, resulting in outside aide.

As far as everyday weeding and typical maintenance goes, everybody pulls their weight.

“We [recently] had to do a revamp of the garden, and university maintenance helped a lot with that,” McGee said. “We had an issue with flooding in our beds, had to do some major weeding and we planted some new plants.”

The garden was rumored to be moving to the top of the art building that is under construction, but McGee said no plans are set in stone.

“Originally we wanted the garden to be on the roof of the new building with raised beds, but I’m not entirely sure what’s going on,” McGee said. “Things seem to be changing as time goes on.”

Featured Image: Fibers art senior Rachel McGee is the president of the Dye Garden at UNT. The Dye Garden is located next to Bain Hall. Cameron Roe

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Austin Wagner

Austin Wagner

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