A Campus in Full Bloom
West Chester University’s Campus may be devoid of students, faculty, and staff this summer, but some things on campus are alive and thriving.
Celebrating its second summer, the natural pigment and dye garden that lives outside of the E.O. Bull Center is in full bloom, and ready to serve a host of learning, service and sustainability purposes when students return in the fall.
The “baby” of Professor S. Kate Stewart, associate professor of art, painting and drawing, the natural pigment and dye garden took seed after Stewart gave a noonday research lecture for the Office of Sustainability about her work in the Toulouse area of France, a region whose wealth is built on the dye industry from an indigo-producing plant called woad.
Director of sustainability Brad Flamm, and manager of grounds maintenance Josh Braid encouraged Stewart to start her own pigment and dye garden on campus.
Stewart says, “There was an interest for me in making this happen. I have always loved gardening, materials research, and history.”
They started talking about locations, and where it would be most beneficial to grow the garden in terms of sun and visibility. Stewart drew garden sketches and did research on dye-producing, non-invasive, native plants before planting in the spring of 2019.
Now in its second year of growth, the garden is flourishing. Stewart received special permission to come to campus every few weeks to maintain it. In the fall, she will mentor interns to maintain, harvest, and store the garden’s materials.
There are a multitude of learning applications for the garden across several disciplines. Students gain an appreciation of the natural world when learning how the plants grow and produce, their uses, and their effects on industry and commerce. Processes for pigment extractions and how to dye paper and garments will be topics for art students, and theatre students use it to discuss the dyes and pigments used for Shakespearean costumes. In the future, Stewart would like to do community dye workshops once or twice a year.
The natural pigment and dye garden is one of four gardens used for service, education, and sustainability purposes on West Chester University’s campus. See descriptions of all four gardens here. View a video of how the Natural Pigment and Dye Gardens looks now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNF2PE0GHrI